|Report: Celtics ’emerging as a contender’ for Goran Dragic||02.18.15 at 10:14 am ET|
Surprise, surprise: The Celtics have entered the Goran Dragic sweepstakes.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has placed a call to his former assistant general manager, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough, about the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player.
ESPN sources say Celtics emerging as contender on the outside for Goran Dragic in trade with Phoenix
‘ Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
Dragic, who is expected to decline his $7.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season, has alerted the Suns he will not re-sign in Phoneix come July, per USA TODAY’s Sam Amick. Given the team’s wealth of point guards after signing Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe for a combined $97 million this past summer, McDonough is reportedly seeking to trade Dragic by Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Enter Ainge, who has enough draft picks, expiring contracts and affordable young talent to join any trade discussion. But how much are the Celtics willing to pay for a 28-year-old point guard who can walk in June? (See: Rondo, Rajon.)
Granted, Dragic is coming off a Third Team All-NBA season and has 9,118 fewer NBA minutes on his legs than the 28-year-old point guard they traded two months ago — not to mention an entirely different skill-set than Rondo — but Ainge will have to compete with a host of other teams for the Slovenian’s services, including reported suitors in the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Pacers and Rockets. Ainge’s familiarity with McDonough, which led to the exchange of Brandan Wright for draft picks last month, can’t hurt in that regard.
Would Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million expiring contract and pick(s) be enough to land Dragic? Or would the C’s have to include Kelly Olynyk or another burgeoning young talent? The Suns, who currently lead the Thunder by a half-game for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed, could use another floor-spacing big man after losing veteran locker room favorite Channing Frye to the Magic in free agency.
Additionally, the Celtics must determine whether the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dragic — a willing defender and brilliant playmaker who submitted a remarkable statistical season in 2013-14 (20.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 35.1 minutes per game while producing a 60.4 true shooting percentage and 21.4 player efficiency rating) — could coexist with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley in the backcourt. (Unless, of course, either Smart or Bradley is shipped back to Phoenix in exchange for Dragic). The feeling here is that Dragic and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smart could wreak the same kind of havoc Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Suns’ 48-win campaign last season.
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dragic has included the Los Angeles Lakers, New York and Miami among his list of preferred landing spots, demonstrating a willingness to re-sign with a team currently out of championship contention, but it’s unclear whether he’d be open to staying in Boston. Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, also represents Rondo, whose desire to test free agency led to his trade. Just as with Rondo, though, the C’s — or any organization acquiring Dragic — could offer an additional year and roughly $25 million more on the open market. With the NBA’s new television deal expected to increase the salary cap in 2016, Dragic could command a max contract this summer.
For more on the impending trade deadline decisions Ainge faces, click here.
|Trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 7||02.13.15 at 12:33 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team — something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is Part 7.
With Rondo and Jeff Green shipped out, trade ideas are running thin as the Feb 19 deadline approaches.
No doubt Ainge would love to shed an expiring contract or two in the form of Brandon Bass, Tayshaun Prince or Marcus Thornton. However, contenders have yet to come calling for the services of Boston’s veteran pieces. But maybe Ainge can use one of those contracts — along with one of his accumulated draft picks — to add a young talent that’s potentially now available.
CELTICS GET: Enes Kanter
Bass is in this deal simply to make the money match, but it achieves Ainge’s goal of moving an expiring veteran. The important part of the deal, however, is Kanter’s contract. He too is expiring at season’s end and there is no chance the Celtics would risk sending a first-rounder to Utah without assurance that Kanter has interest in remaining in Boston. For the sake of making the trade idea work, let’s say Kanter approves of being a Celtic past 2015.
Tyler Zeller (9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds) has had a solid season, but he is certainly not the starting center of the future. Kanter, who recently told reporters that he hopes to be traded, has the potential to be a valuable piece long-term. The former No. 3 overall pick is averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while playing 27.1 minutes per game so far this season — those numbers would be an immediate upgrade at the center spot.
Kanter is still just 22-years old, though. Ainge’s hope in making the deal would be that his new young big would make a smooth transition to Boston and continue to grow his numbers in upcoming seasons. There’s a risk involved for the Celtics in giving up a first-round pick, but the risk could prove worth the reward if Kanter develops into Boston’s future center. After all, Ainge didn’t accumulate all these picks to use each of them. At some point some of them have to be moved for talent that can provide an instant impact.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|Brad Stevens, Sisyphus and a Celtics season in flux||02.12.15 at 1:51 am ET|
It’s been exactly one month since the Celtics finalized the Jeff Green trade — completing a series of deals that also sent Rajon Rondo packing — and yet they’re playing their best basketball of the season. After losing three straight immediately following their leading scorer’s departure, the C’s have won seven of their last 12 games to enter the All-Star break trailing the Hornets and Heat by only one loss for the Eastern Conference’s final two postseason spots.
Despite a 20-31 record, the Celtics are in the playoff conversation. Seriously.
“It’s always been a conversation, since Day 1,” said Marcus Thornton, whose 14 points helped ground the Hawks on Wednesday night. “I believe we can make it, and I believe we can make noise, too, so it’s on us to make that happen.”
Except, some of the current C’s weren’t here when the season began — namely rotation players Jae Crowder and Tayshaun Prince — and not all of them are expected to be around when the team reconvenes for the second half in Sacramento some 24 hours after the league’s Feb. 19 trade deadline.
So, Jared Sullinger can decry all he wants, “It’s the All-Star break; that’s the last thing on our mind,” but the harsh reality is this team that appears to be just hitting its stride could look completely different in a week.
“I’m going to use that time to take off and kind of forget about basketball a little bit,” Thornton said when asked about an eight-day vacation leading up to the trade deadline, “but wherever I’m at, I’m ready to go.”
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ amazing Hawks upset||02.11.15 at 10:05 pm ET|
Brandon Bass called it.
As the Celtics exited a timeout trailing the first-place Atlanta Hawks by one with 6.3 seconds remaining, the veteran forward turned to his teammates and said, “E.T.’s going to win it with a floater.” Sure enough, Evan Turner‘s runner swished through the net for an 89-88 win, capping an 18-point comeback against a team with just 10 previous losses.
“I think it says a lot for us as a team,” said Turner. “We were able to come back against the best team in the league, down . We shot like 30 percent, but once we try to put together a whole game — put together the defensive and offensive game — we’ll be all right. It’s a great win, and it’s always better to go in on a break on a win and not a loss.”
Indeed, the Celtics (20-31) pulled within one loss of the Charlotte Hornets (22-30) and Miami Heat (22-30) for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5 record in their final 12 games before the All-Star break.
Having won three of their last four games, the Celtics looked to stay hot in their final game before entering the All-Star break. Unfortunately for Brad Stevens & Co., the first-place Hawks stood in their way.
Turner’s game-winner gave him 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the victory against Atlanta. Jared Sullinger added 17 points and 15 rebounds. And Marcus Thornton contributed 14 points off the bench. Al Horford led the Hawks (43-11) with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
For a full box score, click here.
|Kelly Olynyk discusses returning from ankle injury||at 7:37 pm ET|
Kelly Olynyk will be missing his 11th consecutive game due to a right ankle sprain when the Celtics take on the Hawks at TD Garden on Wednesday — the C’s final game before the extended All-Star break.
“Yeah, it was a pretty good one,” Olynyk said of the injury while half-smiling to reporters. “I saw a little bit of it [on replay], it was pretty bad.”
“We have another week off, it just makes more sense to hold off,” offered the Gonzaga product on why he would be sitting out Wednesday’s game.
So when will Olynyk be cleared to play?
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “[I’ve] just got to see how everything progresses. It’s kind of ambiguous but that’s how it is.”
The Celtics will be out West following the All-Star break, their first game is Feb 20 when they take on the Kings in Sacramento.
|Trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 6||at 1:27 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team ‘ something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part six.
After a flurry of trades, Danny Ainge’s phone has finally cooled off. At least for the last couple of weeks. But now the trade deadline is a mere eight days away, so expect things to begin to heat back up.
If you take a look around the league (which to me means skim through the ESPN trade machine for an hour), it makes sense that the Celtics haven’t been able to piece together any more moves that accomplish the goal of selling unneeded parts for future draft picks. Most teams that are considered buyers have either already made their moves to add help, or simply don’t have the contracts or assets that would match what Boston is trying to do.
However, there are still buyers out there.
The Hawks are back in Boston on Wednesday, and despite continuing to run away with the Eastern Conference, Atlanta still has many doubters. The Hawks just traded rookie Adreian Payne to the Timberwolves in order to add a 2017 first-round pick — a pick that figures to be used to add more firepower for this season. Furthermore, Atlanta has also been rumored as a potential landing spot for free-agent guard Ray Allen.
But with the Hawks still under the cap, here’s a move that could help them build their bench:
HAWKS GET: Brandon Bass
CELTICS GET: Elton Brand and a future second-round draft pick
*Brand would have to waive his trade clause
This deal makes perfect sense for both sides, but would probably need to wait until Atlanta knows if they will be making a bigger move first. Coming off a month where the Hawks entire starting lineup won Conference Player of the Month (which is absolutely remarkable), it’s now time to build their bench. The addition of Allen — or any other guard around the league that they can lure with their newly acquired first-rounder — would sure-up Atlanta’s backcourt, but they still need help off the bench in the form of a big. Bass is that guy.
Because the Hawks are under the cap, they are able to swap Brand’s $2 million expiring contract for Bass’ $6.9 million expiring deal without any problems. Boston would most likely buy Brand’s contract out, saving them money for the rest of the season, while Bass provides the perfect spark for the Hawks. In addition, Ainge tosses another second-rounder in his pile … you never know when all of them may come in handy.
|Marcus Thornton on Boston: ‘I’d like to stay here’||02.07.15 at 12:24 am ET|
“Guys in here are trying to win,” said Jae Crowder, the only one left from the Dec. 19 Rondo deal. “A lot of people counted us out, so we have a lot of pride in this locker room, and the city has a lot of pride, so we want to keep playing for those guys, playing for ourselves and playing basketball the right way to give ourselves a chance.”
The Celtics own a similar record after the Rondo trade (10-16) to before it (9-14), but since the Green deal was finalized on Jan. 12, the C’s are 7-7, including the first three road wins against Western Conference teams of the Brad Stevens era. For better or worse, this hodgepodge of young talent and expiring contracts is playing to win.
But some within the Celtics locker room are waiting for the other shoe to drop, or at least it sounds that way.
“It’s been great,” said Marcus Thornton, who netted 16 points off the bench in Friday’s win over the 76ers, of the team chemistry since a series of trades also saw Brandan Wright come and go. “It’s still not over yet. Feb. 19 is still a long time from now, so we’ll see how that goes, too. For the time being, everybody’s just here playing.”
Feb. 19, of course, is the NBA trade deadline, and Thornton seemed awful familiar with that date. “No, I’m not thinking about that,” he countered. “Whatever happens, happens. I would like to stay here. Who wouldn’t? We’ve got a good thing going, but like I said, it’s not controllable. I can’t control it, so whatever happens, happens.”
Thornton owns an $8.6 million price tag this season, joining fellow veterans Tayshaun Prince ($7.7 million) and Brandon Bass ($6.9 million) as attractive expiring contracts. The Celtics are winning games because of that trio, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might prefer they help another team in that regard.
So goes the battle for Brad Stevens and this band of merry Celtics, who staved off a 76ers comeback for another victory and pulled within two games of the Nets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff seed.
“We’ve been good in those moments in really the most part of the month,” said Stevens. “And we had a little bit of an adjustment, obviously, after Rondo was traded and Jeff was traded, but in close games — or, you know, we’ve had to come back in a couple of these games — I feel like for the most part it’s been a positive in the last eight minutes of games. So, that’s encouraging from where we started the year.”
Growing, morphing, evolving, it’s all part of the process of these Stevens Celtics, whatever that may be.
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