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Five restricted free agents for Celtics to consider 01.26.12 at 1:31 am ET
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Eric Gordon will be a restricted free agent this summer. Will the Celtics be interested? (AP)

On Wednesday, Minnesota forward Kevin Love signed a four-year extension that could be worth up to $60 million. Love didn’t get the five-year max offer that he was seeking from Minnesota, but he may have gained something more valuable: control over his future. Love can opt out after three years, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season at the same time Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams will be finishing their rookie deals, as well as coach Rick Adelman, who is also signed through the 2015 season.

Why the Timberwolves didn’t lock up the 23-year-old double-double machine when he wanted to sign on for the long-term is the kind of curious decision that has defined GM David Kahn‘s very curious tenure. But it does take Love off the restricted free agent market this summer and removes another potential target for the Celtics, who are positioned to have ample room under the cap after the season.

The problem with having all that cap space is there are very few worthy players to spend it on outside of Dwight Howard. Team president Danny Ainge noted last week in an appearance on The Big Show that, “My philosophy is it’s really challenging to build a team when you overpay role players before you have your stars.”

That puts Ainge in a difficult spot, but patience is the right call and for an obvious example of what not to do when cap money burns a hole in your pocket, see the Pistons, who blew up their roster when they traded Chauncey Billups and then quickly signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon to their ever-lasting regret.

Make no mistake, the 23-year-old Love is a star and quite possibly a franchise player in the making. He’s exactly the kind of player for whom you save cap space when he does hit unrestricted free agency and thanks to the Wolves, that will now happen far sooner than it would have otherwise. But the Celtics, and everyone else, will still have to wait.

Wednesday was the deadline for players from the 2008 draft to sign extensions and in addition to Love, Denver signed Danilo Gallinari to a four-year deal. They join Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook as the other players from the draft class to sign long-term deals.

But there were several intriguing players who didn’t sign deals and will be restricted free agents this summer. While none of them are franchise players worth max money, here are five intriguing possibilities for Ainge to consider. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics outlast Minnesota 01.03.11 at 10:05 pm ET
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The Celtics won’t get any style points for their 96-93 win over the Minnesota (recap), but no one will care about that in April. And after not closing out a similar game against New Orleans in their last home game, it was a win they were happy to get.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce came alive: After a dreadful start, Paul Pierce made his first shot with two minutes left in the first half. The second half was a completely different story as he made 5-of-8 shots and scored 15 points in the third quarter. Pierce made only one shot in the fourth quarter, but it was a huge 3-pointer.

He finished with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and a very smart foul in the final seconds that prevented Michael Beasley from getting a good look at a 3-pointer.

Von Wafer: Wafer had his best stretch of minutes this season in the second quarter when he scored four points and emerged as the Celtics’ best rebounder (this was not a difficult honor to achieve on Monday). Still, Wafer showed some of the ability that has kept him employed by the Celtics this season. His timing couldn’t have been better because the deadline to guarantee contracts for the season is approaching next week.

Rajon Rondo is finding his groove: It seems clear that Rondo isn’t 100 percent back to being Rondo. Before the game Doc Rivers suggested that Rondo’s ankle would probably bother him all year. What remains to be seen is if he can recapture his explosiveness. He only took four shots and rarely drove to the basket.

But even in a reduced role, Rondo is still a great facilitator (he had 16 assists) and adept at finding, and exploiting mismatches. He worked Shaquille O’Neal against Kostas Koufos every time the opportunity presented itself.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rebounding: This was predictable. Kevin Love is the best rebounding forward in the league and the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who is the second best. But, the Celtics got killed on both the offensive and defensive glass and Love had more rebounds (15) in the first half than the Celtics had as a team (14).

But the Celtics also got killed on the defensive glass for the second night in a row, which is not something they can afford to have happen. Even without Garnett.

Glen Davis tried to do too much, again: Love destroyed Davis on the boards, and Davis didn’t do himself any favors by getting into foul trouble and launching too many jump shots. It has been a rough transition into the starting lineup for Davis, who had a not-as-good-as-it-looked line of 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting. One rebound in 30 minutes told a much different story.

Bench woes: In 29 minutes of court time, Nate Robinson and Luke Harangody took eight shots between them. They missed all of them. Neither player registered an assist, either. Thankfully for the Celtics, Wafer supplied some offense and a whole lot of energy off the bench. Robinson did make two clutch free throws in the final seconds to put the Celtics up by three for the game’s final margin.

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Fast Break: Rondo’s return helps rally Celtics past Raptors 01.02.11 at 8:31 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo returned to the Celtics lineup after missing seven games with a severely sprained ankle, and while he wasn’t in top form, he had a definite impact on the Celtics, who snapped out of their recent funk with a 93-79 victory over Toronto on Sunday night. (Recap.)

The Celtics outscored Toronto 50-37 in the second half and shot 54 percent. Their double-digit win was even more impressive when you consider they also allowed 19 offensive rebounds. There’s no rest for the Celtics, who play the Timberwolves in Boston Monday night, but this was a much-needed win after two weeks of struggles.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo returned: The Celtics led 13-8 after six minutes and Rondo was feeling so good he even busted out his fake behind-the-back layup move. Then he picked up his second foul and went to the bench. So long, early lead. Rondo played nine more minutes in the second quarter and went the whole way in the third as the Celtics opened up a nine-point lead.

Rondo wasn’t great — four points, eight assists, five turnovers in 33 minutes — but you could see the difference in how the Celtics got into sets quicker and the passing was much crisper. In the third quarter, the Celtics made 12-of-17 shots and had assists on 10 of them. That’s the kind of impact Rondo has on a game.

Paul Pierce made amends: Pierce had a bad game against the Hornets on Friday afternoon. It happens. Pierce took the extra step of taking the blame for the loss, which wasn’t necessary, but was in line with his role as team leader. You know what speaks more loudly? Taking over the next game. In the first half, when the Celtics were struggling for offense, Pierce scored 20 of their 42 points. That’s leadership.

Center depth: Shaquille O’Neal got in foul trouble again, which is like saying the sun rose in the east. The good thing for Doc Rivers was that he had options. Rivers kept Shaq in the game after he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and the big guy was able to convert a layup. He could afford to take the risk because he knew he had Jermaine O’Neal waiting behind him and Semih Erden, if necessary.

The O’Neals combined for 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, which is exactly the kind of production they need from the position.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Glen Davis continues to struggle: It’s not that Davis hasn’t been able to do a decent Kevin Garnett impersonation. He hasn’t even been able to be Big Baby the last game and a half. Davis seems to be fighting himself as he adjusts to his new role as a starter, but after starting the game by missing eight of nine shots, Davis came alive in the third quarter.

He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in what might have been the best bad game anyone on the Celtics has played this season.

Transition defense: This has become the new watchword for Rivers, and the Celtics are struggling a bit in terms of getting back on defense. They gave up 27 fast-break points against Toronto, who is one of the fastest teams in the league in terms of pace. The Celtics play a number of young teams over the next few weeks and you can believe they will want to get out and run, rather than try to go toe-to-toe with the bruising Celtics.

Defensive rebounding: Attention, Celtics big men: Kevin Love is waiting for you on Monday. You might want to tighten up on the boards.

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Big Al Gets Love in Minny 11.01.08 at 9:40 pm ET
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Partially in thanks to Big Al, this became ...

Partially in thanks to Big Al, this became ...

Al Jefferson’s talent is old news to Celtics fans who watched him shine in the days of 18-game losing streaks and failed youth movements. After all, he was the main attraction for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett deal.

But the spotlight doesn’t shine on the T’Wolves and Jefferson is overshadowed by big men on winning Western Conference teams. Until his squad is a postseason contender, Big Al will struggle to receive the same recognition as players like Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and David West.

This season, though, one of Jefferson’s newest teammates is spreading the word of his talent. Rookie Kevin Love, who is blogging on NBA.com, is already advocating for more publicity for his mentor.

... this.

... this.

“Al’s great to me, especially in practice. There are people who like to say he’s not athletic, he’s a below the rim player, he can’t run, and that’s what some people say about me. But people focus on what he can’t do rather than what he can do. He’s going to come out and get 20 and 10 and in practice he works his butt off, he’s one of the hardest workers, if not the hardest. It shows on the court and on the stat sheet. You can’t really do much to stop him. He’s just a great player.”

Thanks to K-Love, Jefferson is getting the love he deserves.

Read More: Al Jefferson, Big Al, Boston Celtics, K-Love Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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