By Logan Mullen | Comments Off on Brad Stevens ‘putting the pieces together’ for upcoming season
Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Celtics this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens has been surprisingly quiet. At the ABCD Hoops for Hope event at the TD Garden on Tuesday, Stevens opened up about a number of things that defined this offseason.
And though he’s been quiet, it hasn’t stopped him from planning constantly and paying mind to the outlook of the upcoming season.
“I think as a coach, you get away a little bit, but at some point you’re antsy to get back at it,” Stevens told reporters. “So maybe re-writing the third version of what you’re doing? I don’t know. You think about it all year. I’m just going to be ready for September 27th. Ever since the end of July I’ve had a pretty good idea of what we’re going to look like as a team and who’s going to help us in what way. It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together and hopefully playing well”
The Celtics that fell in the first round of the 2016 postseason, though similar, will have some major changes. There was the addition of big man Al Horford, former Celtic Gerald Green, as well as No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown.
With such additions, there’s been incessant changes to the outlook of the roster and thus the approach the team will have to take.
“I think you’re always tweaking and changing and you’re always making adjustments,” he said, “But I think you have to put a lot of time and thought into what your new guys have done well, how that plays within what you’ve done or if you need to change some of what you’ve done to fit them better. You go through that, and you make sure you come up with a plan that fits everybody the best to bring out all of their best strengths.”
Defense was never an issue for the Celtics in 2015-16.
By Logan Mullen | Comments Off on Kelly Olynyk ‘should be ready to rock’ when training camp begins
How much have the Celtics changed over the past four years?
Think of it this way: entering his fourth year of NBA service, all with the Celtics, center Kelly Olynyk is currently the second-longest tenured member of the team after Avery Bradley.
“That’s pretty crazy. I think from the year I got here, me and Avery are the only people still from that team. We had 15 guys when we came in here, and there’s only two of us surviving,” Olynyk said at his annual trip to Canobie Lake Park with children from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children as part of the Shamrock Foundation on Wednesday. The 25-year-old jokingly added, “So it’s either me or Avery, one of us has got to go.”
The trip was later than usual as a result of the shoulder surgery Olynyk underwent on May 16 due to recurrent subluxations in response to his Feb. 10 collision with Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
And with Celtics training camp set to begin in a month on Sept. 26, things are looking up in the 7-footer’s recovery
“My shoulder’s doing alright, man. I should be ready to rock,” he said. “It’s good. Still got about a month or so left, which you can put a lot of work in in a month, get it stronger. It’s coming along, motion’s pretty good, need to get it stronger, give it time to heal.
“We’ll get everybody together and just see how not only if it’s ready, but when it’s the best time to ease into it and gradually improve it and kind of roll things out.”
Olynyk has been a consistently valuable asset off the bench since being taken 13th overall by the Mavericks and promptly traded to the Celtics in the 2013 NBA draft. Appearing in 69 games in 2015-16 — starting just 8 — he averaged 10 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. He also shot 45.5 percent from the field., and for a big man was not afraid to pull the trigger from downtown, averaging three attempts a game with a team-leading 40.5 shooting percent from three.
With all that in mind, he’s still got his work cut out for him. The Celtics still have Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson at their disposal, as well as newly-acquired Al Horford.
Horford does address multiple needs for the Celtics, and for Olynyk, who was on the team’s private plane en route to court then-free agent Kevin Durant when President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge received the call Horford chose them, it will do nothing but help the team improve.
“It was awesome. We were just super happy Al was going to join us. A player of his caliber and of his talent level and of his character is huge. It’s something that we kind of wanted and needed and we’re really looking to him coming to us and him helping us get to where we want to be,” Olynyk said.
“He’s a great player and he’s so good because he can play with a lot of different guys. He’s really skilled, he can make things happen offensively he can play defensively, he can fly around. His length and his ability to guard different spots, and play different spots on the floor, really helps us and our versatility.”
One void that will rear it’s head this season is the loss of sixth man Evan Turner, who departed for the TrailBlazers this offseason. That hasn’t stopped Olynyk from corresponding with his former teammate.
“I did talk to Evan, he came to my camp, actually. Unbelievable guy, it’s too bad that he had to go, but it was good for him, really good for him. It’s tough anytime, the business is different. You’ll see over the years you get close to guys and you have great teammates like Evan and, you know, they’ve got to do what’s best for them.”
For the full interview with Olynyk on Celtics.com, click here.
He’s very much available at the moment because the Hawks signed center Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal, though NBA guru Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo reported that Atlanta hadn’t closed the door on retaining Horford.
That seems unlikely, since the Hawks also agreed to a $70 million extension with Kent Bazemore. At the very least, Atlanta would have to reshuffle the roster to make room for a max Horford deal.
— Things with Horford get even more interesting, because according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the Celtics were hoping to sign Horford in time to bring him to Saturday’s meeting with free agent superstar Kevin Durant.
Horford and Durant are close friends, and the Celtics believe that one could help them land the other, even if it ends up being next offseason, when Durant is expected to jump back into free agency if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal this week.
— Speaking of Durant, multiple reports said he was “blown away” by the Clippers on Friday during a meeting in the Hamptons with owner Steve Ballmer, head coach Doc Rivers, and stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, among others.
In Los Angeles, Durant would join a top-heavy group of stars that also includes vacationing point guard Chris Paul, but with almost no supporting cast to speak of. The Celtics, by contrast, offer a deeper roster with more financial flexibility to improve.
Durant also met with the Warriors on Friday, incidentally. He is expected to meet with the Spurs and C’s on Saturday and the Heat on Sunday before circling back to the Thunder and making a decision next week.
— Elsewhere around the league, contracts continue to spiral upward, backed by $24 billion in TV money that will be flooding ownership’s coffers over the next nine years.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley, a nice player who has never sniffed an All-Star team, became the highest-paid player in NBA history when he signed a five-year, $153 million deal to remain with the Grizzlies. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan signed a $139 million deal that made him the second-highest paid player. The Pistons gave Andre Drummond $130 million. And so on.
— One of the beneficiaries of this largesse? Former Celtics guard Evan Turner, who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with the Trail Blazers and will join their starting lineup. Turner thanked Celtics fans and the organization for two great seasons that resurrected his career.
By John Tomase | Comments Off on Evan Turner agrees to 4-year, $70 million contract with Trail Blazers, thanks Celtics fans
Say goodbye to Evan Turner.
One of the symbols of the resurgent Celtics under coach Brad Stevens, Turner reportedly agreed to a four-year, $70 million deal with the Trail Blazers on Friday before taking to social media to thank the Celtics and their fans for two transformative years.
Turner told The Boston Globe that the Blazers told him to sit tight while they negotiated with forward Chandler Parsons, who ended up signing with the Grizzlies. The Blazers immediately turned their attention to Turner, telling him that he’d be a starter on a team that went 44-38 and won a round in the playoffs before being dispatched by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semis.
Turner, 27, averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists last season. He signed with the Celtics as a free agent before the 2014-15 season, and over the next two years remade himself from bust of a No. 2 overall pick into a solid jack-of-all-trades on a playoff team.
“It’s tough to leave,” Turner told the Globe. “I liked Boston a lot, bro. The organization, and it’s just a sports city and the city is super nice. If you put money and everything aside, I would play in Boston every single day of the week. Seeing all those Hall of Famers come back and everything, that’s a real franchise.
“I was just having fun playing again. When I played in Philly, it was pure hell. But to go to Boston and rock out and play was crazy. And to play in Portland is going to be fun, too.”
By Josue Pavon | Comments Off on Celtics should be eyeing these free agents
The Celtics reportedly will target Hawks forward Al Horford in free agency. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)
Assuming the Celtics don’t land Kevin Durant, they’re going to need to shift their focus to signing other key free agents to improve their roster.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will target Al Horford when free agency officially begins July 1, and will be one of many teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Nets and Wizards, interested in the nine-year pro. (A Thursday report indicated the Thunder also plan to make a push for him.)
If the Celtics don’t land Durant or Horford, what kind of players do they need?
“We need good players,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last Friday as the team introduced five of its six draft picks in Waltham.
Brad Stevens was more specific.
“The biggest needs as we look at it are continuing to grow ourselves on the offensive end and what we decide to do with regard to protecting the rim,” the coach said.
There are a handful of players available who could help in scoring and rim protection, which could push the Celtics into contending with the champion Cavaliers.
However, the most talented players come with an expensive price tag. The Celtics will have to weigh their options and target the players who are worth the big bucks, while also looking to at second- and third-tier options who offer plenty of upside.
Here are four free agents the Celtics could sign this summer.
AL HORFORD 2015-16: 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Horford sits atop the list — his ability to stretch the floor on offense and defend opposing big men makes him a great fit in Boston. His leadership qualities will be beneficial for this young Celtics team — along with his experience. Horford, who turned 30 earlier this month, is also consistent — while his 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last season aren’t numbers that are going to amaze you, his dependability will make a big impact. He would give the Celtics their first consistent scoring big man since Kevin Garnett. And much like Garnett was for the Celtics, Horford is a great pick-and-roll guy who can knock down shots and score in the post. He is a max guy, but is one of the exceptional players of this free agency class who deserves a contract worth over $20 million annually. Placing an All-Star like Horford alongside Isaiah Thomas would bring this Celtics team to the second round of the playoffs, with potential to go beyond. It would be a huge step toward contenting with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Evan Turner makes it clear he wants to return to Boston, but ‘a lot of variables that are going to occur … I can’t control’
Was Thursday Evan Turner’s swan song in Boston?
“I really don’t know,” Turner said after scoring just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting in 37 minutes in a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6. “I would love to come back, but at the same time, a lot of things, a lot of variables that are going to occur and things like that that I can’t control. Whenever July hits we’ll talk about it.”
Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the 76ers in 2010, made $3.425 million this season, finishing out a two-year, $6.7 million deal. He could be in line for a big payday, somewhere in the neighborhood of an $8 million-$10 million annual salary.
What will Turner be looking for?
“Just fit, obviously. I want to get a decent amount of money, you know what I’m saying? But at the same time the fit is going to be huge and the opportunity to play on a winning team,” Turner said. “I have played on [expletive] teams a couple times and it’s not fun. But obviously the fit, the opportunity to play, and the opportunity to progress and win.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Brad Stevens has his best game of the season, and picks up his first career playoff win
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)
While the TD Garden crowd was going bonkers with the Celtics up 37-20 after one quarter in Game 3 Friday night, coach Brad Stevens had a much different feel.
“I knew we would start with great energy because our guys were hurting a little bit from Tuesday but I was really worried that we would be – you know, I don’t know, for any of you that have ever run the mile, you run the first lap, breakneck speed, and then about the third lap, it just feels like you’re never going to make the last two laps.”
Stevens really had those concerns late in the third quarter. The Celtics opened the second half well enough, scoring the first seven points and racing out to a 64-45 lead. Then methodically, the Hawks charged back. With a 1:21 left, Dennis Schroder completed a three-point play that appeared to tie the game, 78-78. In actuality, it gave the Hawks the lead, 78-77, since Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer moments earlier was degraded to a standard 2-pointer after the quarter. Whatever the case, the Celtics were wearing down and the good vibes from Isaiah Thomas’ scorching start seemed to be diminishing somewhat.
But the Celtics caught a huge break when Atlanta couldn’t grab a rebound off an Evan Turner miss. Jonas Jerebko collected it and threw it up in the air and it came down through the hoop to put Boston on top, 79-78, heading into the fourth.
“I thought that we were starting to wear down, obviously, after we took that 19 point lead,” Stevens said. “But then Isaiah made huge play after huge play. But then everybody made plays to kind of keep it at bay after they tied it and then push it out at the end.
“I thought the basket at the end of the fourth quarter – or third quarter – was huge, by Jonas and starting the fourth quarter off with a couple of buckets was big too, just to kind of get ourselves right. Because it’s hard when (Kyle) Korver gets going like that, those guys get driving down hill – they’re a good team. It’s hard.”
Stevens had one of his better games of the season from an Xs and Os standpoint. Not only did starting Jerebko over Jared Sullinger pay off in extra energy down the stretch, starting Evan Turner over Marcus Smart gave the Stevens the chance to play Thomas more as the shooting guard. It also allowed Stevens to run Thomas off screens and create driving lanes with Thomas on the move, something he hinted at before the game.
“Well, I mean, we’re playing, of our nine guys that played, four of them our point guards, because I included Evan in that. So, yeah. Yeah, I mean, and we’ll look at what was good, what was not good, and have to adjust some,” Stevens said.
As for Jerebko, it was evident from the start that he was going to provide a needed boost. His put-back slam dunk in the opening minute sent the crowd into a roar early and fired him up as well.
“He plays really, really, hard. He’s got versatility with regard to defensively,” Stevens said. “It’s really hard to switch onto (Jeff) Teague and (Dennis) Schroder, but all of our bigs have to do that some as they get going downhill on you. And then his scoring is just a plus. You know, if he scores, he scores; if not, he’s still spacing for us. And so they have to honor that. And he had a big driving basket with his left hand in the fourth quarter, he had the big basket at the end of the third quarter, but then his defense was really great all night, I thought.”
And Stevens picked up his first playoff win in seven tries.
“Game Sunday. It’s great. It’s better than the alternative,” Stevens said. “But this team’s too good to do anything but focus on what’s next.”