|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.
|The Celtics and the Lance Stephenson question||07.08.14 at 11:02 am ET|
Do the Celtics covet Lance Stephenson or don’t they? That is the question.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Celtics are “showing interest” in the free agent shooting guard. However, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett claims the C’s have not contacted Stephenson nor his agent.
Considering Avery Bradley reportedly agreed on a four-year $32 million deal to play Stephenson’s natural position, it seems surprising the Celtics would also target the mercurial Pacers 2-guard, although he has the ability to play the 3.
While Indiana remains his ideal destination, Stephenson considered Pacers president Larry Bird‘s offer of five years and $44 million a “low-ball” one and began exploring the open market, according to Broussard.
Based on production, Stephenson (2,752 min, 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, 56.4 TS%, 14.7 PER) should command more dollars than Bradley (1,855 min, 14.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 51.0 TS%, 12.7 PER), but the former’s antics may prevent him from making double-digit millions annually. Either way, it’s hard to imagine the C’s stealing him from the Pacers.
|Rajon Rondo rides shotgun at fork in Celtics road||at 10:16 am ET|
Given the drafting of point guard Marcus Smart and the failure thus far of the Celtics to land a big name this summer via free agency or trade, the discussion has naturally turned to trading Rajon Rondo.
“I don’t think nothing of it,” Rondo said, shrugging his shoulders, according to the Globe. “I am who I am. …
“I don’t have too many feelings involved in this business. I’ve played my heart out for the game, but business is business. I can be here today, gone tomorrow. You never know. For me to get bent out of shape, or to feel threatened by the Celtics drafting a point guard, it means nothing.”
So, he’s good, then?
Meanwhile, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett spoke to three NBA general managers who believe — despite a number of potential suitors for Rondo’s services — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will struggle to receive fair compensation for his All-Star point guard this summer, suggesting the C’s could wait until the season starts before making a deal in hopes Rondo’s play increases his trade value.
Conversely, as the trade deadline approaches, opposing GMs will be circling like sharks knowing the Celtics face the possibility of Rondo departing in free agency next summer, leaving Ainge with nothing but cap space in return. In that regard, Rondo’s value may peak before the calendar turns to 2015 (i.e., Chris Paul in December 2011).
Ideally, as Rondo’s high school coach Doug Bibby explained to the Globe, “It won’t affect [Rondo]. If anything, it just woke up a beast.” Then, as Sports Illustrated Chris Mannix suggested, the Celtics could land a legitimate starter and draft picks in return. Unless, of course, Kevin Love walks through that door and the C’s keep Rondo.
Ainge remains at a fork in the road. Whether Rondo is still riding shotgun this winter remains up for debate.
|Terrible turnaround: C’s up big early, lose bigger to Pacers, James Young sits out again||07.07.14 at 9:27 pm ET|
A great start turned into a big learning experience for the young Celtics in a Summer League lesson handed out by the Pacers Monday in Orlando.
The Green went up by 18 points early against the Pacers in their second game of Summer League action on Monday. Then they got absolutely throttled by Indiana. Boston ended up losing the game by 19 points, 96-77.
The 37-point turnaround was as ugly as it sounds. The Celtics shot a mere 34.3 percent (24-for-70) from the field, and only 25.9 percent (7-for-27) from beyond the arc.
Basketball is a game of runs. The Celtics never responded to the Pacers’ run, which seemingly lasted three quarters.
‘That response has to happen on the defensive end of the court,’ Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga told reporters. ‘We were late on everything and we fouled too much.’
Kelly Olynyk led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 15 points (5-for-13 shooting) to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, Marcus Smart ‘ the No. 6 overall pick in the draft ‘ had another shaky game. Smart shot just 3-for-15 from the field, finishing with 11 points in 27 minutes.
Shooting remains a huge concern for Smart. But he was also unable to fill out the stat sheet like he did on Saturday against the Heat. Smart only had three boards, four assists and a steal to follow-up his debut.
Smart looked lost at times, settling for bad shots while looking less energetic on the defensive side of the ball (although, the same can be said about the entire team during the last three quarters).
James Young sat out yet again with a neck injury from a June car accident. His status is still up in the air as to whether or not he will play in Summer League.
Willie Reed led the way for the Pacers. He scored 18 points (8-for-12) while adding six rebounds, three assists and blocking four shots. It’s just Summer League, but if Willie Reed is drawing comparisons to Willis Reed, it’s not a good thing.
The Celtics will look to bounce back on Wednesday against the Pistons at 7 P.M.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|The Creative Kevin Love Trade Idea of the Day||at 10:59 am ET|
Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “Here’s something that remains unchanged: Danny Ainge‘s relentless pursuit of creative ways to engage Minnesota on a Kevin Love deal.”
It should come as no surprise that Ainge is continuing to target Love. After all, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck promised fireworks this summer, and a Love connection is the only big splash left to make. Go ahead, look at the available free agents at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.
News flash: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and/or Carmelo Anthony aren’t coming to Boston. The Suns, Pistons, Rockets and Jazz are respectively expected to match offers for restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat are off the board. Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce are rumored elsewhere. That leaves one top-20 player in Tom Ziller‘s great free agent rankings: 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Considering he plays the same position as Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart, Thomas doesn’t exactly qualify as fireworks. Now, look at the unrestricted free agents available in 2015. The two biggest names: Rondo and Love. If Ainge doesn’t pair them now, how confident are you he can do so when they hit the open market next summer? If nothing else, the first week of July has proven high-profile free agents have no interest in the Celtics. Re-signing Rondo and Love would be a different story, since the C’s could offer significantly more money.
In other words, the C’s only real shot to compete in the near future is pairing Rondo and Love. This is a stars league, and those are the only two that set foot in Boston this summer. Other pieces will follow. Otherwise, Ainge might as well trade Rondo and start from scratch, because the Celtics won’t be contending for quite some time.
Ainge will exhaust all options to acquire Love, including every attempt to involve other teams and satisfy Minnesota’s desire to land a legitimate player in return. Since we can get creative, too, here’s one such option he could try.
|Jared Sullinger admits he could do more to be in better shape: ‘I think conditioning was a big factor’||07.02.14 at 2:47 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger got the message loud and clear at the end of the season from Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. If the big man from Ohio State was going to take that next step in what many – including Celtics‘ brass – see as a successful NBA future, he needs to be in better shape.
Sullinger and Chris Johnson were the only players with two years of NBA experience in attendance Wednesday at the Celtics training facility, as the team continued its two-a-day workouts in advance of this Saturday’s summer league opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando.
“I think conditioning was a big factor,” said Sullinger, listed by the Celtics at 260 pounds. “Late in the game, I’d get tired and stop doing the things that I normally do in the first quarter. I think conditioning will kind of help that out.
“[Joining the summer practice is] another opportunity to play against other guys and kind of push myself to another limit, work on things that I don’t normally work on by myself and then I’ve got bodies out here. Going against bodies, pushing myself through contact. So everything is kind of helping me with conditioning.”
But to the 6-foot-9 Sullinger, being in good basketball condition has not so much to do with his weight as his endurance.
“It’s more shape,” Sullinger said. “How long I can run, how fast I can run. Pretty much how long I can stay on the court without passing out. I’m working on that every day.”
Sullinger, still just 22, averaged 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game last season. Coming off season ending back surgery in his rookie season, he played 74 games, starting 44.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Celtics deal him. If they do, they want to get maximum return. Sullinger isn’t worried about what the front office does or doesn’t do. He’s focused on improving a team that suffered through 25 wins, the worst season of his college or pro career.
“I’m not a [general manager]; I’m a player,” Sullinger said. “But regardless of what [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], [director of player personnel] Austin [Ainge] or [assistant general manager Mike] Zarren do, I’m full support. My job is to play, their job is to manage. As long as I don’t try to manage and play, I think the Boston Celtics will be a pretty [good] team in the East.”
He may not be in the front office but there is one role he feels he can serve if he sticks around in Boston, and it provided another reason beyond conditioning for him to be in attendance Wednesday – leadership. One of those looking up to Sullinger while working out with him Wednesday was Kelly Olynyk.
“Honestly, yes, there’s things I can help Kelly out with, if I see something he’s not doing well,” said Sullinger, who will not be making the trip to Orlando for the Summer League. “We kind of police ourselves so he helps me out at the same time I help him out. It’s kind of two-way street. It gives me an opportunity to kind of help out the younger guys and kind of test my IQ and see if I really know basketball the way I say I do.”
WALTHAM — It appears more likely that first-round draft pick James Young won’t be making his Celtics summer debut this weekend in Orlando as he recovers from a neck injury sustained in a car accident in early June.
Young did not take part in the Wednesday morning session at the club’s practice facility, the third straight absence as the team plays it cautious with the 18-year-old swingman.
“James observed practice, did the stationary bike a little bit and just watched and participated from the sidelines,” said assistant coach Jay Larranaga, who will be coaching the Celtics‘ summer league team for five games starting this Saturday in Orlando.
As was the case Tuesday, when the rookie missed both workout sessions, Larranaga deferred all questions about his availability to head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, neither of whom spoke to the media on Wednesday.
The car accident forced Young to miss several pre-draft workouts for teams leading up to the June 26 draft. There is a belief that uncertainty about Young’s medical status and his inability to work out allowed him to fall to No. 17, where the Celtics selected the former Kentucky Wildcats star.
In other news, the Celtics may alter their two-a-day regiment on Thursday due to Hurricane Arthur making its way up the Atlantic seaboard. Many team officials were going to leave Friday the Fourth but instead may opt to beat the storm down to Florida and have a workout in Orlando prior to Summer League opening on Saturday against Oklahoma City.
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