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ESPN’s Tom Penn: ‘I think there is significant interest’ in Kris Humphries 02.19.14 at 1:39 pm ET
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Tom Penn

Tom Penn

With Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching, ESPN NBA analyst Tom Penn said Wednesday is the day to look for deals to take shape.

“Today’€™s always ‘€˜real deal’€™ day,” said Penn, who will appear on ESPN’s “Trade Deadline Special” Thursday at 3 p.m. “You start finally talking real deals, and then you’€™ll try to get them done tomorrow, and I expect to see quite a bit of movement. On a macro-picture, with the West being wide open, everyone should be looking to upgrade. In the East, strangely, you have some teams trying to get as bad they can get, so you have deals going in every direction.”

Penn worked as assistant general manager for the Grizzlies and then vice president of basketball operations for the Trail Blazers, and he has direct experience negotiating with Danny Ainge.

“Danny’€™s a pro,” said Penn, “a pro’€™s pro. He’€™s done everything in this league, and he’€™s had success making mega-deals and making smaller deals. He’€™s not bashful about asking for what he wants.”

Added Penn: “With Danny, he was always very confident in what he had and very direct in what he wanted to do. He tended to offer deals that were really good for the Celtics and really not so good for the other team, and he did so unashamedly.”

A major deal for Rajon Rondo seems unlikely, but Penn identified Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass as the C’€™s two most desirable trade assets.

“The main challenge finding a match to give the Celtics what they want,” explained Penn. “Humphries [earning $12 million this season] is a lively big on an expiring contract, so I think there is significant interest in getting him, but his contract is the only significant expiring contract for the Celtics.

Keith Bogans can go away, we know that, but the Celtics really need that money to go away. So they would be looking for a different combination of one-year expiring contracts and then something for the trouble, right? So that’€™s harder to see a match when you factor in what they need.”

Bass, who has another year left on his contract, is the most likely Celtic to be moved.

“A player like Brandon Bass is very valuable this year and next year to whoever’€™s looking at him,” Penn said. “His salary is [$6.4 million], and he’€™s been proven to deliver in the playoffs [most notably an 18-point quarter in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers]. He can spread the floor, make shots, and isn’€™t going to hurt you too bad defensively.

“Unlike Humphries, who you’€™re just renting for the rest of this season, with Brandon you have in the fold for next year and see if he fits with you longer term. In Bass’€™ case, it’€™s easier to give up more of what the Celtics want — a younger piece, or a draft pick — when you know you have this player for two years.”

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.

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As Celtics head toward lottery, here’s a look at top prospects in NBA draft 02.06.14 at 10:07 am ET
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The Celtics are coming off of their worst month in team history — a record of 2-15 in January.

Jabari Parker (left) and Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Duke’s Jabari Parker (left) and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Wrap your mind around that: the worst month in Celtics history. The 2006-07 team that lost 18 straight never dropped more than 14 games in a month. Even M.L. Carr‘€™s 1996-97 tank-squad that won a total of 15 games never topped 14 losses in a single month.

So what does this mean? It means the Celtics are going to lose a ton of games this season, even with Rajon Rondo.

The trade deadline is looming, and Danny Ainge already has showed that he is not afraid to make moves for the future — trading Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford for expiring contracts and draft picks is evidence. And it’€™s safe to expect similar moves between now and Feb. 20.

It’€™s also safe to expect Ainge to hold a high draft pick come June. Boston currently has the sixth-worst record in the NBA and has reached as low as third (the C’s were fourth worst entering Wednesday). Recent wins over bottom-feeders Orlando and Philadelphia have the Celts sitting a bit higher in the standings. Losing another game or two would allow them to get in that bottom three, which yields a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick. The timing couldn’€™t be better, as the class of 2014 is loaded with prospects that project to be NBA stars.

Given the Celtics‘ current position, selecting somewhere in the top five seems reasonable. So let’s look at the top five prospects in the draft and how they would work in Boston.

Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid has scouts drooling over his NBA potential. He has grown from a mid-to-late lottery pick to a probable first overall pick in just about half a season.

Embiid is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. And oh, yeah, he’€™s only been playing basketball for about three years. Originally from Cameroon, Embiid still is learning the game at Kansas under Bill Self. The conventional wisdom was that he would take more time to develop, but Embiid has been masterful on the defensive end and is far less raw on offense than we were led to believe. “He’s skilled, he’s tough, he’s learning quickly, he’s all of 7 feet and he battles,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said in a Thursday interview with Mut & Merloni. “And he’s getting better.”

Embiid has posted season averages of 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in only 22.7 minutes per contest. He has done all this while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and making plays that have (rightfully) drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. The lone flaw in his game? Embiid fouls far too often. His 3.5 fouls per game are much too high, especially considering his minutes.

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Danny Ainge confirms Rajon Rondo’s return set for Friday 01.16.14 at 11:21 am ET
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Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed Thursday morning that Rajon Rondo is on schedule to make his first appearance of the season Friday night when the C’s host the Lakers.

“Unless there are any setbacks [Thursday], we’re anticipating him playing [Friday],” Ainge said in an interview with Boston radio station WBZ-FM, noting that the guard will be restricted to five minutes per quarter.

Rondo was placed on the active roster and in uniform for Wednesday’s win over the Raptors, but he did not enter the game.

Rondo has been out since tearing his ACL last January and having surgery.

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Danny Ainge: The Wolf of Causeway Street 01.15.14 at 4:12 pm ET
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The Wolf of Causeway

Danny Ainge has pulled the trigger on two trades in the span of 10 days, and the Celtics president of basketball operations likely isn’t done dealing before the NBA’s Feb. 20 trade deadline. Hence, The Wolf of Causeway Street.

WOLF OF CAUSEWAY

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Irish Coffee: An in-depth look at Danny Ainge’s remarkable Celtics track record on personnel decisions 01.08.14 at 5:49 pm ET
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We constantly examine the players Danny Ainge has acquired since becoming the Celtics‘ president of basketball operations in 2003, but rarely do we take a look at his departed assets. Bill Belichick is so often lauded for the lack of success in which his ex-Patriots have wallowed in, but Ainge’s batting average rivals The Hooded One, and that’s an important notion to keep in mind in this ever-changing Celtics world. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re only looking at outgoing players who appeared in games for the Celtics. That rules out training camp invitees (I see you, Michael Sweetney) and immediately waived trade acquisitions (Hi, Donte Greene). Incoming players are an entirely different story, albeit another successful one (What up, Kevin Garnett?). So, without further adieu, here’s who Ainge bid adieu to (and, yes, I just used adieu twice in a sentence).

2003-04

  • Let free agents Mark Bryant, Bimbo Coles, Grant Long, Mikki Moore, Ruben Wolkowyski walk July 2003.
  • Traded J.R. Bremer and Bruno Sundov July 2003.
  • Traded Tony Delk and Antoine Walker October 2003.
  • Traded Tony Battie, Kedrick Brown and Eric Williams December 2003.
  • Traded Mike James February 2004.

BRYANT: Never played again.
COLES: Played just one more season, averaging 1.3 points in 22 games for the Heat.
LONG: Never played again.
MOORE: Somehow lasted another eight seasons in the NBA, including another stint in Boston (see below), even averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds from 2006-08, but c’mon: This is Mikki Moore we’re talking about.
WOLKOWYSKI: Never played again.
BREMER: Averaged 3.3 points over 36 games for the Cavaliers and Warriors in 2003-04, his final season.
SUNDOV: Averaged 1.4 points over 36 games for the Cavaliers and Knicks from 2003-05, his final two seasons.
WALKER (see below): Averaged 14.6 points, 8.7 boards in 2003-04, but shot a career-worst 26.9 percent from 3.
BATTIE: Signed a four-year, $24.8 million deal in Orlando, and began declining in 2006-07.
BROWN: Averaged 1.5 points over 12 games the next seasons before playing his way out of the league.
WILLIAMS: Played for five teams over three more seasons before starring in Basketball Wives.
JAMES: Still in the league nine seasons later, including a career year (20.3 points, 5.8 assists) in 2005-06, although averaged double-digits just once more and has played for 12 different teams.

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Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets 12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET
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The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.

RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.

2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.

JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.

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Donny Marshall on M&M: Celtics talking to Kings about trading Rajon Rondo for Isaiah Thomas, others 12.18.13 at 11:15 am ET
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Donny Marshall says a potential deal with the Kings might land the Celtics 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas. (AP)

Donny Marshall says a potential deal with the Kings might land the Celtics 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas. (AP)

Donny Marshall, the former CSNNE Celtics analyst who now works for NBC Sports and the YES Network, joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the trade rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo.

Marshall turned heads earlier this week when he said Sacramento is a possible landing spot for Rondo, who has yet to play this season as he works his way back from a torn ACL suffered in January. According to Marshall, there is a multi-player deal in the works between the Celtics and Kings.

“This is actually something that the teams are talking about,” Marshall insisted. “The name that people would understand and would know is a guy like Isaiah Thomas. He’s a great little guard. He’s having career highs right now, he’s averaging about 18, 19 points a game. He’s a scorer. He’s a guy who can run the point for you, but he can also score. He’s one piece.

“I think the other piece, you throw in some other athletes — remember, they just made a trade, Sacramento, to get Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray. And they’ve had some other guys there that they’re trying to move. The key for them is two future first-round picks. If you’re to stay on that same theme that the Celtics have been on, to get young and to be good for a long time, how do you do that? You get them through the draft. ‘€¦ I think here’s another opportunity to not only get a couple of good players now, young players, but you get two future first-round picks. To me, it makes total sense.”

Added Marshall: “Guys are always going to be talked about. In Rondo’s situation ‘€¦ it makes sense. Do you want to be mediocre? Do you want to finish sixth this year? Not that anyone is going to try to tank — this team is playing terrific. ‘€¦ I’m happy that they’re playing the way they’re playing. But for the fans and for that market, to be mediocre is not fun. ‘€¦ That, I don’t think the Celtics deserve. The fans don’t deserve that, the players don’t deserve that. The way you get past that sooner than later is trying to move a guy like Rajon Rondo. And that’s not to be disrespectful to a player like Rondo.”

The Celtics also reportedly are pushing to acquire disgruntled Rockets center Omer Asik.

“You talk about Omer Asik, they want to now try to find a package to get him out of Houston. Brandon Bass is a name that they’re throwing in there. I don’t think Jeff Green will be a guy that you would want to [trade]; I think he’s untouchable, in my opinion. I think that’s one guy you can try to continue to build around, but there are some other pieces that will go.

“A complete dismantling? No. But I think Danny [Ainge] will do what he’s always done. He will think these things through. He will talk to all of his guys around him. The one thing that’s great about Danny is he always has people around him that are smarter than him. I love that theory. Because now you go to them and you trust them, and those people are doing their due diligence to make sure the team is going in the right direction.

“I don’t think they’ll dismantle, but I do think Danny will take some pieces that he can build around and and not completely be in the basement, but put himself in a position to be able to get — I think they can get some of those lottery picks. I really think they can get some of those game-changers in the next two drafts.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

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