|What LeBron James’ decision means to the Celtics||07.11.14 at 1:42 pm ET|
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Over the next 24 hours, you’ll see thousands of stories about what LeBron’s decision means to Cleveland (everything), Miami (oh, man) and the NBA in general (those ripple effects won’t reach shore for quite some time), but what exactly does it mean for the Celtics?
LeBron’s arrival in Cleveland immediately makes the Cavs a contender. While James admitted the team’s rookie head coach and youthful roster makes a title this season far from easy, a supporting cast of Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Anderson Varejao isn’t a bad start.
Given the youth surrounding the game’s best player — only 29 years old himself — Danny Ainge‘s job just became that much more difficult for the foreseeable future. Conservatively, the Cavaliers could be contenders through 2020.
Of course, LeBron will also lure more talent to Cleveland. Chief among his recruits could be Kevin Love, who the Celtics have coveted for the past several months. The Cavaliers could offer Wiggins, Waiters, Varejao’s expiring contract and a future first-round pick for Love, potentially beating any offer Ainge could create. (Ironically, the Cavs still own a protected No. 1 pick from the Heat as a result of LeBron’s sign-and-trade in 2010.)
If the C’s lose out on Love to Cleveland, Ainge would only have himself to blame, since his recent three-team deal created the cap space necessary for the Cavs to sign James. Still, it’s hard to hold Ainge entirely responsible for LeBron landing in Cleveland, since Dan Gilbert would have created space come hell or high water.
The Celtics also acquired a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in the trade for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller, so LeBron’s decision just made that pick a whole lot less attractive. However, the Celtics own Miami’s second-round pick in 2016, and that could be somewhere in the 30s should Chris Bosh sign in Houston as expected.
Wherever James ultimately landed — Miami or Cleveland — the Eastern Conference was always going to go through LeBron for the next several years, so in that regard little else has changed for Ainge. In fact, the currently constructed Cavaliers may not be the immediate force that the Heat have been for the past four years. Regardless, Ainge’s focus remains on landing Love, and LeBron’s return to Cleveland just made that more difficult.
|Gerald Wallace: LeBron James ‘doesn’t have the attitude or the fight’ of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant||07.10.14 at 10:46 am ET|
As we learned this past Celtics season, Gerald Wallace never pulls punches. This time, he’s giving his own teammates a break from constantly calling out their effort and making the game’s best player his speed bag.
In a conversation with myfoxal.com during his annual basketball camp at Childersburg (Ala.) High, Wallace criticized LeBron James for both his handling of free agency off the court and his lack of a killer instinct on it.
“I don’t really pay attention to the offseason acquisitions or what’s going on just because of [the drama],” he said. “I think they put more attention into it than what’s needed. Their decision is no different than some of the other guys going through the same thing. It’s just their names happen to be LeBron, Carmelo [Anthony], Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, some of the superstars that are mostly seen on TV. I think that’s what makes a big deal out of it.”
Wallace’s love for Michael Jordan is no secret. A longtime Jordan Brand representative, Wallace idolized the Bulls legend and played five of his seven seasons in Charlotte under Jordan’s ownership, including one as an All-Star.
“I grew up in the ’90s,” added Wallace, whose camp T-shirt featured the Jumpman logo. “I grew up in the Jordan era. I’m a Jordan baby, and to me he will always be the greatest player that I’ve ever seen play. I had an opportunity to play against him at the end of his career, which wasn’t the same, but I’ve even played against him in practice and had an opportunity to talk to him. Watching him on TV growing up, he’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen.”
No argument there. However, Wallace’s commendation of Jordan also included a condemnation of James.
“Jordan never had an off night,” Wallace told myfoxal.com. “He found many ways to contribute to the team, and I’d say Kobe [Bryant] is pretty much the same. You can put LeBron in that category. I think what separates LeBron from Kobe and Michael Jordan right now is that he doesn’t have the attitude or the fight that those guys had. For me, he’s not willing to take over a game, demand a game or put the game all on his shoulders. I would like to see him get to that one day, but right now I don’t think he has that, and that’s what Michael Jordan and even Kobe has.”
|Celtics acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, 1st-round pick in deal that may pave way for LeBron James to Cleveland||07.09.14 at 10:51 am ET|
The Celtics acquired Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick from the Cavaliers and Marcus Thornton from the Nets in a three-team trade that may pave the way for LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland, ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported.
In return, the Celtics are sending a second-round pick to the Cavs and using the $10.3 million trade exception they received upon dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last summer. That TPE was set to expire on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Nets receive Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers, freeing enough cap space (roughly $24.0 million) for Cleveland to potentially offer James a maximum contract of four years, $94.8 million.
As a result, the Celtics reportedly received Cleveland’s No. 1 pick in 2016 (top-10 protected through 2018), a 24-year-old 7-footer under their control through 2016 and Thornton’s expiring $8.6 million contract for a second-round pick.
In addition to acquiring Zeller, who averaged 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, the Celtics could have as many as nine first-round picks over the next four seasons and $41.4 million in expiring contracts (Rajon Rondo‘s $12.9 million, Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million, Joel Anthony‘s $3.8 million and potentially Jeff Green‘s $9.2 million player option). There’s no doubt the move puts the Celtics in a better position to acquire Kevin Love or any other desirable player by trade this season or by free agency next summer.
According to Kirk Goldsberry‘s easily digestible shot charts, Zeller (1,049 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 58.1 TS%, 15.4 PER) attempted nearly 70 percent of his shots around the basket and converted almost 60 percent of them. Likewise, Thornton (1,741 min, 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 51.1 TS%, 12.0 PER) is a decent enough 3-point shooter from the right corner, left arc and straightaway, but underwhelming from mid-range and the paint. Neither are considered defensive stalwarts. Quite simply, this trade, in a vacuum, does not make the C’s much better this year.
Additionally, the Celtics now have $64.7 million in guaranteed contracts dedicated to Rondo, Gerald Wallace ($10.1M), Green, Thornton, Bass, Anthony, Avery Bradley (estimated $8M), Vitor Faverani ($2.1M), Kelly Olynyk ($2.1M), Zeller ($1.7M) and Jared Sullinger ($1.4M). That puts them over the estimated $63.2 million salary cap. Details of Marcus Smart‘s contract haven’t emerged, but cap holds for him and James Young already add another $4.1 million to that number. Likewise, the C’s also have Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb signed to non-guaranteed minimum contracts, pushing their current commitments to $69.7 million.
In other words, the best the Celtics can now offer a free agent is the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3M), meaning Ainge probably isn’t done dealing this summer, especially if he hopes to avoid the lottery again next year.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v4.0||06.25.14 at 1:45 pm ET|
This year’s draft is starting to feel like it could be one of the most entertaining in years. Seriously, how could there be any more drama?
The old projected top pick, Joel Embiid, is injured and sliding down draft boards. We have no clue if Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers. We don’t even know that Cleveland will keep the first pick — teams like the Magic, Jazz and Celtics are rumored to have interest.
The Celtics also are rumored to be one of three finalists to acquire the No. 8 pick from the Kings. Then the Lakers seem pretty serious about trying to package Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick in an attempt to get young talent. Or, dare I say, the Lakers could be trying to clear cap space to make a play on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
A mock draft seems almost pointless since we are expecting so many trades. Let’s not forget that Kevin Love‘s name will be one we hear in rumors a few times Thursday. Expect to see one of the wildest drafts in recent memory, but if there is less movement than expected, here’s how it could shake down.
1. Cavaliers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) – Embiid has been projected as the top pick for a while, even with his back issues. His broken foot is a whole different monster, though. Those two red flags will cause him to slip, and Parker is the best player in the draft right now. Wiggins will get a look here, especially if the Cavs are looking for a player to fit alongside LeBron (in their dream scenario). Owner Dan Gilbert wants to be very involved in the pick, and he reportedly likes Wiggins. That’s a risky strategy for Cleveland, so just take the sure thing in Parker — the Cavs really can’t afford to blow this one.
2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – The Bucks now hold the easiest pick in the draft. Sit back and see what the team with the top pick does, then take the other top prospect. If Parker goes No. 1, then Wiggins goes to Milwaukee to play with a decent young core. The Bucks may prefer one to the other, but they have to be pleased either way it plays out.
3. 76ers, Dante Exum (Australia) – Philly ends up the biggest loser as a result of the Embiid injury. The Sixers would have been the team that ended up with the third top prospect that was passed over, but now they have a difficult choice to make. Embiid probably still is too risky this high in the draft, so Exum is the best overall talent available. Exum would either come in to be a backcourt-mate to Michael Carter-Williams or to take MCW’s job if the 76ers look to trade the Rookie of the Year.
4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) – With Exum off the board, and Orlando seeking a point guard, Smart makes sense with this pick. Of course, any of the big men on the board will be tempting to the Magic, but they have been most interested in Smart and Exum all year.
5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) – The Jazz already have a lot of young talent in their frontcourt. But if all the guards are taken early, and Utah does not trade up, Vonleh may be the most appealing piece. Vonleh is more capable of stepping away from the basket than the remaining bigs; that could be the determining factor.
6. Celtics, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – One of the big questions of the draft becomes how far Embiid will slip. Danny Ainge will face a tough decision if he slips to No. 6, and in the end he won’t be able to pass up Embiid’s potential. If Ainge is unable to add an All-Star caliber player through a trade, Embiid is a fantastic fit for the future to play alongside Jared Sullinger in a rebuild scenario.
|ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on D&C: LeBron James ‘probably gone’ from Miami after opting out of contract||06.24.14 at 10:15 am ET|
ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Goodman checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to discuss LeBron James‘ decision to opt out of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent, and if there is any chance James might end up in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The question on people’s minds is why James — who still could re-sign with Miami — would opt out of his deal with a team that has reached four straight NBA Finals (winning two).
“Because he’s LeBron. He’s LeBron and he’s got people around him that just don’t know how to deal with these things, as proven by a few years ago,” Goodman said. “Whether it’s Rich Paul, his agent, or Nike, or whoever’s telling him to do these things …
“I agree, I think he’s probably gone. Because you don’t make this move publicly and put yourself out there unless you’re ready to leave. Miami’s made it clear they obviously want him. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep him. Again, it comes back to it’s a dumb move to put yourself out there like this. You could be the hero by just saying, ‘Hey, listen, I’m not opting out, I’m just coming back, I want to be in Miami.’
“But you guys are right, listen, if he’s opting out at this point it certainly means he’d rather be elsewhere. He’s got questions with Miami — which he should have, to be honest, in some regards. Because Dwyane Wade looked like the broken-down Dwyane Wade. They don’t have enough help around him right now, with Wade at the level he’s at. When Wade was a top-15 player in the league you could see them continue to win titles. But how are they going to do it now if Wade — who I think will probably finish his career in Miami — sticks around. You don’t have a lot of flexibility.”
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: March Madness could reveal sleeper pick for Celtics||03.20.14 at 9:23 am ET|
The C’s had an exciting win against the LeBron James-less Heat on Wednesday night. Sure, it was fun to see Rajon Rondo lead the charge against a quality team, but what does it really mean? This season is already lost, so what it means is a five-game losing streak has been halted, dropping Boston two spots to the sixth lottery spot. The win lowered the C’s current chance at a top-three pick by 16 percent. You never know how the season is going to end, but all signs point to a tight lottery race. Was the thrill of Wednesday worth it if the Celtics finish one win ahead of the Lakers?
Enter the beginning of March Madness, the greatest four-day stretch in sports.
We know that there will be ample buzzer-beaters and upsets, there always are. Brackets will be ripped to shreds (as mine always is), others will turn into lottery tickets (just not the kind Danny Ainge is chasing). No bets are safe come March Madness, but feel free to learn the hard way if you must. Nobody needs any extra incentive to enjoy the most entertaining tournament we have as sports fans. However, this year Celtics fans will have one extra reason to pay attention — draft picks.
Don’t forget that outside of Boston’s hyped first-rounder, Ainge also will own Brooklyn or Atlanta’s pick, which could end up being a player who breaks out in the tournament. We already know the talent players like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and even Marcus Smart posses. A bad tournament will not lower their draft stock, but a breakout tournament could boost their NBA stock even higher. There is no clear cut No. 1 overall pick, but Celtics fans obviously would love to see any top-tier talent arrive in Boston.
The immediate franchise changers will be determined by the ping-pong balls, the hunt for the rest of the stars begins with the later picks. Once the premier talent is off the board, a lot of the next prospects to be taken in the draft are players that raised their stock in March. I didn’t even know who Kenneth Faried was until Morehead State upset Louisville in 2011. After watching him play one game, I had no doubt he was a lottery talent in that year’s draft. Kind of an extreme example, but March matters.
Who is 2014′s Faried? Can Ainge get his hands on him? And most importantly, can he develop a better nickname than ‘The Manamal’ in the NBA? Time will tell.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley too cool for LeBron James-less Heat||03.19.14 at 9:51 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo scored just nine points, but he was the best player on the floor all night, taking over the fourth quarter in a 101-96 victory against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LeBron James (back spasms) was relegated to the Miami bench, but still — this was Rondo’s night.
The Celtics point guard finished one point shy of a triple-double (15 assists, 10 rebounds), ending a five-game losing streak. Avery Bradley‘s 23 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, led the scoring effort, and four other Celtics reached double figures: Brandon Bass (18 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points), Jeff Green (13 points) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points). And the Celtics needed all of it from each of them.
The Celtics improved to 23-46, moving one win ahead of the Lakers and Suns for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley’s back: After making just six of his 25 attempts from outside of 10 feet in his first three games back from an ankle injury, Bradley found the stroke that made him so successful early this season. The soon-to-be free agent knocked down three of his six first-half 3-point attempts and added a long jumper to enter the break with 11 points. In all, the C’s shot 50 percent (9-18) from distance over the first two quarters and stayed within 56-53 after two.
Charmed third: Working inside and out, Bradley and Brandon Bass shot a combined 8-of-8 from the field to score 21 of the C’s 27 third-quarter points. Rondo was on the feeding end of four of those buckets, finishing with six assists in the frame. As a result, the Celtics took an 80-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Bench press: The C’s bench situation isn’t pretty. It’s comprised of four guys who weren’t on the team to start the season, two rookies and another player with 45 NBA games under his belt entering the year. Yet, they received valuable contributions from three of those seven players, as Sullinger, Olynyk and Jerryd Bayless (7 points, 5 assists) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: The opening quarter couldn’t have gone much worse for the Celtics defense. While the NBA’s two-time defending MVP sat on the bench, the Heat still scored 34 points on 70 percent shooting to take a 12-point lead in the game’s initial 12 minutes. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh who victimized the C’s, but Udonis Haslem. The Miami veteran scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter.
No LeBron: The Heat announced James would miss his first game in a month shortly before tipoff. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return Friday in Miami, but regardless of how they feel about him, Boston fans missed a player worth the price of admission. Perhaps a motivated Celtics team took it as a sign of disrespect, too.