|Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge’s masterful Celtics summer||07.20.12 at 3:48 pm ET|
How do you think David West is feeling right about now? If you’ll recall, when he snubbed the Celtics for the Pacers in free agency last summer, he said, “In Boston, everybody is kinda realistic about the window that the Celtics have. Me looking at where I’m at, I think my window is a little bit wider.”
Since then, after watching the Celtics take the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals, West has seen his Pacers match Roy Hibbert‘s max contract (4 years, $58 million) — dedicating roughly $36 million annually to a “Big Three” of Hibbert, Danny Granger and George Hill — trade Darren Collison for Ian Mahinmi, and sign Gerald Green (3 years, $10 million) and D.J. Augustin (1 year, $3.5 million) as their biggest free agent splashes.
Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge painted his best masterpiece since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 for Al Jefferson, the No. 5 overall NBA draft pick and a bunch of garbage. Not willing to call Ainge’s offseason a masterpiece? Take a look at what he had to work with this summer.
|Courtney Lee is just what Celtics need||at 1:41 am ET|
You won’t find Courtney Lee‘s name listed among the great guards in the NBA. He’s not going to make an All-Star team or an All-NBA team. He’s not the first, second or even third option in anyone’s offense. Instead, Lee is a connoisseur’s player. A pro’s pro, if you will.
What Lee does is make teams better. In seven of his eight most frequent lineups with the Rockets last season, Houston had a positive point differential. He’s a shooting guard who doesn’t need to score, but when he does shoot he is very effective, especially from 3-point range and particularly from the corner where he made 49 percent of his attempts last season, second only to Ray Allen. He is also an excellent cutter who rarely turns the ball over.
Lee is not the all-around offensive threat that Allen is — or was — but he is a much-better defender and even capable of sliding over the wing forward spot in certain lineup combinations. He’s also younger and healthier than Allen. With Avery Bradley’s status uncertain to start the season after undergoing two shoulder surgeries, Lee could slide right into the starting lineup and combine with Rajon Rondo and Jason Terry to form a strong three-man backcourt.
All around Orlando and Las Vegas where the Celtics were competing in summer league, scouts and executives all offered the same appraisal of the possibility of Lee joining the C’s: “perfect fit.”
The only question was whether the Celtics’ offer of E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams and JaJuan Johnson, plus a second-round draft pick would be enough to make a sign-and-trade deal possible and there was some skepticism that it would. As talks went deep into the night on Thursday, it was still uncertain but seemed headed in the right direction.
Moore and Williams have non-guaranteed contracts, which makes them useful for cap math purposes. Johnson has just over $1 million guaranteed on the second-year of his rookie deal, but the Rockets have a surplus of big forwards and sources in Johnson’s camp expressed unease about adding his name to the list. The proposed deal needed a third team to help facilitate the moving parts and the Herald reported that Blazers stepped in with Sasha Pavlovic‘s name thrown into the mix.
If the Celtics can pull it off, it would be the equivalent of turning tap water into a fine Cabernet. If the current parameters hold, Danny Ainge would have traded four non-rotation players for a starting guard, which happened to be their biggest offseason need.
Williams has done little to impress in his short time in Boston and Johnson has clearly fallen behind rookie Jared Sullinger this summer. Moore has been one of the Celtics’ best summer league performers, but he is not nearly the same finished product as Lee and Pavlovic wasn’t likely to return to Boston in any event. (The trade would be a setback for Moore whose contract becomes guaranteed if he’s not waived by midnight on Sunday. If Moore is waived, the Celtics would not be able to re-sign him until after the one-year anniversary of the trade.)
The process is important because the Celtics are creeping ever closer to the magical hard cap line of $74.3 million and by acquiring Lee, they will be left with few options to complete the rest of the roster. Second-round pick Kris Joseph, as well as summer league stalwarts Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith could be the lucky beneficiaries of the Celtics’ tight cap situation, but if they add another big man it would have to be for the veteran minimum.
None of that should detract from the fact that the Celtics are on the verge of solving their biggest offseason puzzle and for a capped out team with few assets, acquiring Lee is the equivalent of a corner 3-pointer with the shot clock near zero, which just happens to be his specialty.
|Celtics’ pursuit of Courtney Lee gets tougher||07.18.12 at 5:08 am ET|
LAS VEGAS — It’s not like the Celtics don’t want to wrap up their roster renovation, it’s just that free agent guard Courtney Lee wisely listened to the advice of his agent, Dan Fegan, who told him to be patient.
Once the Celtics lost Ray Allen to Miami, they set their sights on acquiring the versatile Lee to shore up their backcourt. They made no secret of their intentions, as coach Doc Rivers visited with Lee in Orlando the morning after Allen signed with the Heat.
There was a good reason for their speed. The Celtics knew that the longer this played out, the more competition they would have for Lee. Sure enough, more than a week has gone by since Rivers’ impromptu sitdown and Lee is still available and very much in demand.
Lee may have to be a little more patient, but it seems that Fegan’s message will pay off. Someone will have the cap room to make a straight pitch for Lee and with O.J. Mayo off the board, he’s suddenly the best backcourt wing player left in free agency.
In addition to the Celtics, the Suns, Timberwolves and Bulls reportedly have expressed an interest, and there could be others as well.
The Suns have cap room. The Wolves could have room depending on whether the Blazers match their offer for restricted free agent Nic Batum. The Bulls are sitting on a $5 million trade exception and also staring at a loaded offer sheet from the Rockets for their own restricted free agent in Omer Asik that provides its own set of complications. The Asik offer sheet is not expected to be signed until the end of the week and then Chicago would have three days to match.
The Celtics, however, will not have cap room, or a rich extension to offer. Read the rest of this entry »
|More than eight teams in mix for Courtney Lee||07.09.12 at 7:41 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Free agent guard Courtney Lee was talking with Pistons’ coach Lawrence Frank during the Orlando Summer League when the one-time Celtics‘ assistant asked how many teams were after him since the Rockets rescinded their qualifying offer and made him an unrestricted free agent. Lee started down the list of suitors, but there were so many he lost track.
“My brain froze so I couldn’t tell him all the teams,” Lee said. “There’s more than eight teams. Once they pulled my qualifying offer and made me unrestricted the phone kept ringing.”
One of those teams is the Celtics. Lee met with Doc Rivers over the weekend and the two expressed mutual interest in Lee coming to Boston.
“There was no verbal agreement or anything, we’re just hearing each other out,” Lee said. “They expressed their interest. I expressed my interest. It’s not basketball wise, there needs to be discussions with the front offices and my agent. They need to communicate and go from there.”
Asked how he would characterize the nature of discussions with the Celtics, Lee said, “I wouldn’t know how to characterize it. I have a great relationship with Doc from the first time I stepped on an NBA court. I would say our meeting went well. As far as characterizing where I’m at with the team; coach and player-wise we’re on the same page.”
Lee’s agent is Dan Fegan, who is well aware that it’s a buyer’s market for shooting guards. His message: Stay patient. Lee understands the situation he’s in and he knows that if he is to work out a deal with the Celtics it would require some maneuvering. The Celtics are over the cap, so any deal with Lee would have to be worked out in a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Rockets.
“There’s other ways,” he said. “You know Houston and [GM] Darryl Morey, he loves draft picks and that’s one thing you can do with a sign-and-trade.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Fifty shades of Ray Allen||at 7:14 pm ET|
Ray Allen‘s decision to take his talents from Boston to South Beach for half the price and better than twice the odds of winning another NBA championship ran most Celtics fans through the five stages of grief.
- Denial: The Celtics offered Allen $12 million over two years. The Heat offered $9 million over three years. He’s already made $178 million in his career, but there’s no way he’s going to Miami, right? RIGHT?
- Anger: If Judas Shuttlesworth prefers the glitz and glam of a team in its prime that eliminated the Celtics each of the last two seasons to the grit and balls of an aging team that took LeBron James & Co. to the seventh game of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, who needs him anyway?
- Bargaining: Never a great defender, the 36-year-old Allen missed 20 games this past season due to a pair of bum ankles, and then averaged just 10.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting in the playoffs. In the end, all he really did was run around and make a couple 3-pointers every night. How hard can he be to replace?
- Depression: Allen made 1,004 triples in a Celtics uniform, and each seemingly brought the C’s back from the dead, snared a lead or sent a nail through another coffin. Eight broke the NBA finals single-game record, and another set the league’s career mark — all against the Lakers. How can you replace that?
- Acceptance: Playing through bone spurs, the ever-prepared Allen gave the C’s everything he had until the end, and that never stopped Danny Ainge & Co. from shopping him every trade deadline, benching him for a 21-year-old kid and always keeping his longterm future in Boston on the back burner. Who wouldn’t leave?
Whether like Doc Rivers you believe, “He should’ve stayed,” you lump in with the traitorous likes of Johnny Damon or like me you think his time in a Celtics uniform had come and gone, and his departure won’t change the fates of either team all that much, one thing is clear: Ray Allen didn’t want to be here anymore. Now what?
|Ray Allen comes through in the clutch again, this time using a ‘Top Gun’ move||03.07.12 at 12:31 am ET|
It’s a move that’s vintage Ray Allen.
“When Lee jumped at me, I knew I was going to fake him and let him fly by me,” Allen said. “It’s like one of my favorite moves, Top Gun, I put on the brakes and let him fly by.’
He lets Lee fly by, just like in his favorite movie. And as was the case with Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun”, Allen made Lee pay by nailing a wide-open 3-pointer with 35.4 seconds remaining to put the Celtics on top, 84-82, capping a furious 14-2 run by Boston. The game would wind up going to overtime, with the Celtics willing themselves to a 97-92 overtime win over the Rockets at TD Garden.
The game didn’t begin so smoothly for Allen and the Celtics. Allen’s jumper was flat, as he missed his first three shots, all threes, and the Celtics fell behind 28-21 after a quarter.
“I had a couple early in the game that didn’t go in for me and I was watching how they were guarding me, so as the fourth quarter came along everytime I got the ball I knew they were trying to run me off the three so I just said this three was going to be on my terms,” Allen said.
Allen finished with 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including 3-of-8 from long range, in 41 grueling minutes.
If there’s anyone on the Celtics who can speak to the virtues of taking care of the body in the grind of a season, it’s No. 20. It’s certainly paying off this week, as Allen played his second straight game over 40 minutes in three days, with the prospects of playing the young and up-tempo Sixers on the road in Philly in less than 24 hours.
‘The in-between days were you really have to take care of your body and make sure that you focus on rest,” he said. “Even in the games you have to learn how to be efficient out there. Sometimes you have to run harder just to push that bad wind out of you and sometimes you have to just be efficient, and get to your spot and allow your body to recover out there.
“So it changes, you just have to listen to your body. Sometimes your body is telling you you can’t go more. When that happens you have to make sure you pass the ball. Still make a sharp cut, but our legs are so important when you get to the shot. So if I’m short on the shot I know it’s my legs. So I always make sure I pay attention to that. I think as a team we have to make sure we play more together in these stretches because it is going to require us to be a team unit when we play those games.’
With the Celtics dying on the vine with 5:33 left, and down 10, it was Allen who drew upon his freakish good conditioning to bring his team back from certain defeat. he scored in every way possible, lay-up, mid-range jumpers and, of course, his trademark – the 3-pointer. He accounted for half of Boston’s 14 points in the run that got the Celtics back in the game.
‘There’s so many facets of the game, you have to score in transition, you have to score in the paint,” Allen said. “In fast breaks, you have to score off easy buckets, you have to score free throws, you have to score 3-pointers. There’s so many different things so you have to be prepared for everything. I always feel like if I can be in better condition than my guy then that’s going to be four-to-six points a game I will be able to get.’
|Former Magic Notice Changes in Celtics||10.11.09 at 5:01 pm ET|
The last time Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee played against the Celtics, they sent the C’s packing for the summer. The trio were members of the Magic team that eliminated the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. This year they are in a different uniform and noticed the Cs have a different look as well.
Alston, Battie and Lee were traded from the Magic to the Nets over the summer as part of the Vince Carter deal. On Sunday they got their first take at the Celtics with their new team during preseason action at the TD Garden (recap here).
‘They got a brand new season,’ Battie said. ‘I mean, you look and [Kevin Garnett] is back and Rasheed [Wallace] is part of it. They got a great steal in getting Marquis Daniels, and you have those three additions coming back in the team. So, I think they’re the team to beat, definitely.’
Last season a hobbled Celtics squad was outscored, outrebounded and burned from the 3-point line by the Magic. Without Garnett on the court and veterans Ray Allen and Paul Pierce overworked, the Celtics bench could not save the season. Now the additions of Wallace and Daniels give the team much-needed depth.
‘They get their big guy back and then they add Rasheed Wallace in there now,’ Alston said. ‘I think when you’re trying to take away a lot of their main guys, they have a lot of guys that can step up and stretch the defense or post up on the low block. They have a different dynamic to their team, especially from a defensive aspect for other teams.’
Both Alston and Lee agree the series would have been completely different if the Celtics had so many weapons last season.
‘They would’ve been a better team,’ Lee said. ‘They definitely would’ve been harder for a matchup because you can play Marquis at the 1 and you sub in Rasheed, so they keep a shooting big in at all times, so they definitely would have been better.’
Said Alston: ‘I don’t think we would have been able to roam a lot off of a lot of their guys ‘ [Rajon] Rondo, [Kendrick] Perkins, Big Baby [Glen Davis]. Those guys who really bring more scoring to the offense, especially from the bench standpoint.’
The combination of a healthy Garnett and a revamped second unit has Alston noticing a difference in the 2009-10 Celtics. Although he isn’t as willing as Battie to name them the best in the Eastern Conference, he can’t deny the changes on the court.
‘Whenever they have all their guys, they have a swagger,’ he said. ‘When someone goes down they don’t have swagger no more. That’s just how they are.’