|Brad Stevens details exactly what Celtics get out of pre-draft workouts||06.03.15 at 9:15 am ET|
Brad Stevens is in a good place right now.
The Celtics coach is coming off a season in which his team surprised everyone by making the playoffs, winning 15 of their final 21 games to make the postseason for the first time in the Stevens era.
Now, Danny Ainge and son Austin are bringing in players who could serve as reinforcements to a roster that was overhauled midway through the season, and it’s Stevens’ job to identify players they might want to scoop up with any of their four picks they have in the upcoming draft.
“There have been some guys that been through that I think could help, but there are also some guys that have been through that are pretty impressive [who play positions where] I think we have pretty good depth,” Stevens said. “So then it becomes a decision of do you draft a young guy and develop him at a position where you already feel pretty strong, or do you try to fill positional needs? Luckily that’s above me and I just run the workouts.”
That is somewhat unusual for an NBA head coach, as assistants are usually delegated to such tasks. But with Stevens, he prefers to be hands on and have some input into what he might be working with next year.
“I really like it,” Stevens said. “You get a chance to really interact with guys, meet them face to face, spend time with them, watch them go through tough things, watch them go through good things, and respond to both. It’s good. These guys [front office] have said it many times, and I totally agree with it: it’s not the end-all, be-all. These guys have watched these guys play for years in games, this year, so for me you can maybe go and watch film on some of these guys, and then the workout validates what you saw. Or maybe it doesn’t. So it is fun to have them in here.”
|Austin Ainge walks fine line in pre-draft workouts||06.02.15 at 6:03 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Austin Ainge is walking a tightrope at this time of year.
It’s the time of year when the Celtics‘ director of player personnel has to watch what he says about every prospective draft pick that comes through the door of the team’s practice facility for pre-draft workouts.
On Tuesday, another four, all point guard prospects worked out for Brad Stevens, Ainge and his father Danny, showing off their skills. One of them, Olivier Hanlan, is very familiar to Boston and New England fans, as he played three seasons at Boston College. Another, Andrew Harrison has declared for the draft after two stellar seasons at Kentucky, including a national title game appearance in 2014 and run at immortality this spring before UK lost to Wisconsin in the national semis.
Also on hand was Louisville guard Terry Frazier and Tennessee’s Josh Richardson. Another, Corey Walden out of Eastern Kentucky suffered a minor hamstring injury early on and had to sit out most of it and another missed his flight because of weather issues.
But when asked his impressions, Ainge was coy because he has to be.
“When you guys ask me questions about the guys, I say like one positive sentence about everybody,” Ainge said. “Really, what else can I do? If I say anything negative, their agents will be mad at me. If I get too glowing, you guys [will write about it].”
Where does Ainge get his background info?
“We ask the players. Obviously, the [other NBA] teams won’t tell us. So we ask, ‘Hey, where did you work out last? Who was there? How’d they look?’ So we ask them. They’re allowed to tell the truth.
|The Kosta Koufos question: Will Celtics pursue second-tier free agents?||05.19.15 at 11:25 am ET|
Kosta Koufos is exactly the type of player the Celtics need to target this summer.
Given their history of failed free-agent pursuits and the unlikelihood of landing a center of Marc Gasol’s caliber, the C’s are forced to pursue under-appreciated options, so the latest ESPN.com report that team president Danny Ainge already targeted Koufos in trade discussions this season makes complete sense.
After ranking in the middle of the pack this past season with a 102.1 defensive rating — a number that climbed to 110.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in their brief playoff stint — the Celtics are in desperate need of a rim protector, and Koufos was as good as any backup center in that regard. According to NBA.com/stats, the 7-foot, 265-pound former first-round pick held opponents to 46.9 percent shooting at the rim, putting him in good company with Defensive Player of the Year candidates Tim Duncan and Draymond Green at the same percentage.
Offensively, Koufos has proven a capable scorer around the basket, converting 56.2 percent of his shots inside of 8 feet. It might be too much to ask a 26-year-old to suddenly develop a mid-range jumper, but Tyler Zeller made significant strides from outside the paint under Celtics coach Brad Stevens this year.
Regardless, Koufos has averaged 12.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes since being drafted 23rd overall out of Ohio State in 2008, and those numbers have remained fairly consistent for all six years, including when he started 81 games for a Nuggets team that won 57 games in 2012-13.
|Danny Ainge: Celtics ‘in the game’ for big-name acquisitions||05.14.15 at 5:58 pm ET|
In a sit-down interview with Celtics.com, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was encouraged by the development of rookie guard Marcus Smart and his team’s depth during an impressive stretch run, but he also realizes the need for a roster upgrade.
Whether or not that upgrade will come in the form of a draft-day trade or a free-agent signing this summer remains to be seen, but at the very least the C’s are in position to set off the fireworks they’ve stocked away since trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“We’ve tried to put ourselves in the game to have those options and to have some opportunities to make big moves, so I guess if there are big moves that we like, we do them; if there are big moves that we’re not in love with, then we hold off and we wait,” Ainge told Celtics.com. “Those are the challenging ones. Some of them are very easy to determine and some are very challenging and take a lot of investigation and thought and debate and discussion on our side, but I think that you can’t just determine that you’re going to wait or you’re going to do it. It all depends on those opportunities.
|Danny Ainge admits luring big free agents to Boston ‘unlikely’ this summer||04.30.15 at 4:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Danny Ainge isn’t pulling any punches about his efforts to go after some big-time unrestricted free agents this summer. But he’s also be very, very realistic about his chances.
There is a good pool of free agents available this offseason around the league. And many of those free agents are big men, one of the pressing needs of the Celtics as they look to build for 2015-16. And on top of that, the Celtics will have a great deal of cap space to work with, even after offering Jae Crowder a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent.
But the unprecedented rise in the cap in the next two years, growing by as much as $20 million, has a down side, namely 29 other teams with the same expanded flexibility.
“I think free agency is hard,” Ainge said Thursday. “I think it’s unlikely but possible. So we’re going to go after any and everybody that we think is a significant player to upgrade our talent roster. And when I say upgrade our talent, you’ve got to be pretty good to upgrade our talent because we have good players. So, we’re going after all the top names on the list and see what happens.”
Names like LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap and DeAndre Jordan are all scheduled to hit the market.
“I don’t think any of us can predict that. That’s good talk radio stuff but I think ultimately every player is different, unique,” Ainge said. “Some players look at the Celtics organization and tradition, and think it’s something special. Some don’t. Some prefer hot weather to cold weather but most players prefer good contracts and good opportunities to play and hopefully to win, in that order first in most players. We have to prove to people that we have the opportunities for them to be paid, to play, to reach their full potential and to win. I think Boston will be a good destination for some.
|Danny Ainge to offer Jae Crowder qualifying offer, adds: ‘We need to have a busy summer, and we will’||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.”
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