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R.J. Hunter on competing for a roster spot: ‘I trust myself more than ever’ 08.30.16 at 11:37 am ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter should not be in the position he is in.

The incessant griping about the Celtics’ lack of perimeter shooting is justified, with there being few — if any — options both in the starting lineup and off the bench for reliable 3-point shooting.

However, Hunter, a first-round pick in 2015, is known for his shot, so this should be his wheelhouse. Instead, he’s on the fringe of making the final 15-man roster.

“It’s just spurts where it’s like, ‘Bro, what I am I doing wrong?’ ” Hunter said, speaking to MassLive.com on Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “And it’s nothing. You’re just on a really good team.”

Hunter brings up a good point. On most any other NBA team, Hunter would have been a much more heavily utilized asset, not the eight minutes per game player he was in his 36 NBA games last season. Conversely, the 22-year-old didn’t do himself many favors when given the opportunity from Brad Stevens to play.

The shooting guard shot a pedestrian 30.2 percent from 3, while putting together a 36.7 percent field goal percentage, totaling a 2.7 points per game total over the course of the season. As a result of the underwhelming performances, he found himself in the D-League for eight games during the middle of the season. While there he shot slightly worse from 3-point range than in the NBA, with a 29.6 percent mark, but ultimately averaged 13.8 points per game.

“At that point, it was just so completely mental,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my ego got in the way of me making shots. It was almost like for me, whatever I do, I’m in the D-League, and if I don’t do well, it looks worse. And that’s just the wrong attitude to have instead of just going in there. When you have that mentality, now I’m rushing shots. I’m not finishing shots. I’m not really putting in preparation like I have to on every shot. That’s part of growing up, though — you’re in the league, and you’re caught up in it.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Full Court Press: The real cost of Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin, summer league stars Terry Rozier, Abdel Nader 07.16.16 at 4:00 pm ET
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Will Russell Westbrook (0) scores a three point basket against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the fourth quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Will Russell Westbrook land in Boston this summer? (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

Is the time finally right for Danny Ainge to cash in? 

The Celtics president of basketball operations has been stacking his place at the NBA poker table with lots of blue chips. The question is whether now is the time to head to the to the casino office and get the final pieces that will help Brad Stevens and the team get back to the NBA finals. 

There have been reports this week that the Celtics are lead contenders for either Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin in a potential trade. 

But either one of those deals would almost certainly require the Celtics giving up their ownership of Brooklyn’s unprotected pick next year, which could very easily be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Not only that, a team like Oklahoma City, with the always forward-thinking general manager Sam Presti, likely is going to want another top pick, either in 2017 or from the multitude of picks listed below. The Celtics also own Brooklyn’s first-rounder in 2018. The Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Jason Terry trade of July 2013 keeps on giving. 

If there’s any general manager with the wherewithal to pull off a major deal involving future picks and not entirely forfeit the future, it’s Ainge. Here, in full detail, is the remarkable portfolio Ainge has to work with: 

2017 first-round draft pick from Brooklyn
Boston has the right to swap its 2017 1st round pick for Brooklyn’s 2017 1st round pick; if Boston exercises this swap right, then Boston will convey its 2017 second-round pick to Brooklyn protected for selections 31-45 (if this pick falls within its protected range and is therefore not conveyed, then Boston’s obligation to Brooklyn will be extinguished). [July 12, 2013]

2017 second-round draft pick from Cleveland
Cleveland’s 2017 second-round pick to Boston [from Cleveland, Sept. 25, 2014]

2017 second-round draft pick from L.A. Clippers
Clippers’ 2017 second-round pick to Boston [from L.A. Clippers via Phoenix, Jan. 15, 2015]

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Read More: blake griffin, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, NBA
Report: Danny Ainge ‘definitely wants to do something’ on trade market, Jahlil Okafor best bet at 12:04 pm ET
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Feb 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) shoots over Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9)  during second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 130-116. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) could still be a big trade target for the Celtics. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Danny Ainge is still hungry to make a deal. 

According to the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations wants to add one more big piece. But the price tag has been too rich. 

“Another sticking point in that and in other deals Boston is talking about is that pick from the Nets next year (2017 pick swap). Danny will make it available in the right situation, but he’s not going to give it up with core players, too,” a league source told Bulpett. “That’s going to be a good draft, and that’s going to be a high pick.

“Everyone’s been talking about how Danny’s trying to make a killing out here, but when it comes to certain pieces you have, I get that you have to be careful. You can give up equal assets, but you don’t want to take away your best opportunities to keep things going down the line.”

Bulpett also reports there have been no recent discussions on two rumored high-profile players Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin. But an NBA general manager told Bulpett that Philadelphia big man Jahlil Okafor is a different matter. 

“Oh, Danny definitely wants to do something,” the GM told Bulpett. “We’ve got nothing that really works with Boston, but I bet something happens there. I still wouldn’t be surprised if something happened there [with Okafor].”

The Celtics were reportedly close on Jimmy Butler on draft night as they held the No. 3 pick in the draft. The Bulls made no secret about their desire to trade up and grab Providence College point guard Kris Dunn. But, according to Bulpett, the Bulls also wanted two players, while the C’s only were willing to deal one.

Now with the Bulls inking Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, the Bulls seem committed to keeping Butler and making a run next season. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jahlil Okafor, NBA
Danny Ainge: ‘I felt there for about 48 hours that we had a legitimate chance’ to land Kevin Durant 07.07.16 at 1:12 pm ET
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Danny Ainge felt the Celtics had a chance at Kevin Durant. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Danny Ainge felt the Celtics had a chance at Kevin Durant. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Since Kevin Durant’s Fourth of July fireworks on Monday announcing that he would be joining the Warriors, Danny Ainge has had time to mull over what exactly happened to see Durant slip from the Celtics’ grasp.

“You know, in a situation like that, you never really know,” Ainge said to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I didn’t really feel like we had a great chance, but I thought we had some chance. And then after we met with them, I felt like we had a real chance.

“I felt there for about 48 hours that we had a legitimate chance. It seemed like a really good fit. It seemed like a really good option for him, and it just wasn’t meant to be. He had other good options, too, but I did allow myself to get really excited for that 48-hour period, and it just didn’t happen.”

Ainge admitted he was incredibly disappointed when he got the courtesy call from Durant saying he was going to Golden State shortly before his Players’ Tribune piece came out.

The Celtics certainly pulled out all the stops trying to sway Durant into wearing green next season, bringing a cavalry of team personnel, coach Brad Stevens, players Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder and even Tom Brady — Durant’s favorite athlete — to meet with the star in the Hamptons on Saturday.

Even David Ortiz tweeted at Durant to apologize for not being able to make the meeting. And upon signing Al Horford — who multiple times indicated him and Durant had discussed playing together — the Celtics seemed like legitimate contenders for the prized free agent.

“I felt like the meeting and presentation couldn’t have gone any better. I think we all felt that,” Ainge said. “I think it went as well as it could have, and we got a really good sense that it was going to be a really hard decision for him, but that we were a strong consideration.

“We felt like that was the most important part of the whole presentation — who he’d play with and how he’d be utilized. He had some good questions about that and about his role – how he would play, how we would use him. I think we did a great job of explaining and making a great presentation, and I think it was tempting for him. I think he is very, very excited about Boston and the history, the Celtics, all of that. I think he loved what Brad had to say. I think he was impressed with Brad’s preparation, and we had a really good feeling about it.”

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kevin Durant
Report: Kevin Durant eliminates Clippers from consideration in free agency 07.03.16 at 10:18 am ET
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And then there were five.

Free agent forward Kevin Durant, the best player on the market by a country mile, has informed the Los Angeles Clippers he won’t be signing with them, per Ben Bolch of the LA Times:

That leaves the Celtics as one of five finalists for Durant’s services, and perhaps the greatest threat to entice him to leave Oklahoma City, though the Thunder remain overwhelming favorites to retain him.

The Celtics pulled out all the stops in the Hamptons to wow Durant during their visit, flying in Tom Brady of the Patriots to help with their pitch. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz also tweeted his support.

The team’s best move in the negotiation, however, came right after their visit finished, when free agent Al Horford, a close friend of Durant, agreed to a four-year, $113 million contract.

With the Clippers out of consideration, Durant’s choice has been narrowed to the Thunder, Celtics, Warriors, Spurs, and Heat.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Durant rumors, NBA Free agency
Celtics reportedly plan to offer Al Horford a max contract, hope to bring him to Kevin Durant meeting 07.01.16 at 10:33 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

With free agents vanishing from the radar screen at a steady clip, the Celtics appear poised to make an aggressive run at one of the premier names on the market — Hawks center Al Horford.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics plan to offer Horford a max contract on Friday night. The four-year, $113 million deal would give the Celtics one of the best defensive big men in the game, while also positioning them to make a run at Horford’s good friend, free agent prize Kevin Durant, either this offseason or next.

Horford is considered a winning player whose contributions exceed what appears on a standard stat sheet. He averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year while leading the Hawks to the second round of the playoffs, where they were swept by LeBron James and the eventual champion Cavaliers. Before that, he helped the Hawks oust the Celtics in six games from the first round.

Horford, who just turned 30, is a four-time All-Star. The Hawks selected him third overall in the 2007 draft. According to the Herald, the Celtics want Horford whether or not they can sign Durant, and with Dwight Howard inking a three-year deal in Atlanta, Horford should end up with a new home next season.

It appears the Celtics are intent on making that home Boston.

UPDATE: And just to make things more interesting, now there’s this news . . .

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Celtics, Celtics rumors
Isaiah Thomas on OM&F details what he would say to Kevin Durant to get forward to join Celtics 06.30.16 at 4:44 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas joined Glenn Ordway and Lou Merloni Thursday afternoon to discuss Kevin Durant and being a part of the Celtics organization. For the full interview, visit the OMF audio on demand page.

With the Celtics reportedly meeting with Kevin Durant Saturday, Thomas was unsure if he was going to be a part of it, but is ready if called upon.

“I’m going to call Danny today and see what he needs me to do, but if that’s what he wants me to do I’ll be there,” said Thomas.

Despite 48 wins and a first-round playoff exit, when asked how he would pitch the Celtics to Durant, Thomas had very much thought through what he would say.

“48 wins without a so-called superstar I guess they say, in the best city in the NBA, the best fans in the NBA, the history of Boston is self-explanatory,” Thomas said. “… If I am in that meeting on Saturday or whatever day it is, or I’m able to talk to Kevin Durant face-to-face I’ll just be as real as I possibly can and tell him how I feel about Boston. How I felt Boston before I got before I got here and how I feel about it now and that’s all I can really do. In this predicament in this situation everybody is going to try to sell him the world, or sell any free agent the world, and my job is just as a player to keep it as real as possible and try to get him to a great city and get situation and try to get him to Boston to where with him or with any other superstar we can give us that muscle to raise the 18th banner.”

A week removed from the NBA draft, Thomas expressed the utmost faith in the organization’s decision making.

“[Jaylen Brown is] a talented basketball player, somebody that I think will help us,” Thomas said. “I know Danny and the guys in the front office have done their background checks on all the guys that they worked out. So I guess they thought that was the best fit for us as a team. I’ve got all faith in the front office in the Celtics organization and Danny Ainge and what they’re doing because they’ve been through it, that’s their job. And they know the in’s and out’s of the draft and free agency and all those types of things. My job is just to go out there and play. But I’m excited, hopefully Jaylen Brown is ready to contribute and ready to get to work. I’m excited about the future and hopefully we can get a few free agents this summer and build on what we have.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Isaiah Celtics, Kevin Durant,
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