|Full Court Press: C’s consider draft and stash, legend of Togo Palazzi continues with Zach Auguste||06.11.16 at 7:51 pm ET|
When the Philadelphia 76ers and then-GM Sam Hinke entered the 2014 NBA draft, they had their sights set on a 6-foot-10 Croatian forward by the name of Dario Saric. The Orlando Magic drafted him twelfth overall and the Sixers made a deal with with the Magic to drop down two spots, acquire Saric, a 2015 second-round pick and a first-round selection in 2017. And all it cost them was Elfrid Payton.
The move was one of the few bright spots of the Hinke era in Philadelphia, as it produced something for the future.
But the deal, an hour after Philly drafted Joel Embiid third overall, did something else. It asked the Philadelphia fans to put their faith in the “draft and stash” approach to the lottery. Just days earlier, Saric signed a multi-year deal in Turkey, a deal he may finally break this offseason to finally come to the states and play for the Sixers. Saric was stashed away in Europe developing his skills as a 19-year-old power forward. It’s very debatable as to whether Saric would have been ready to step in and contribute significantly right away, even on a team that had precious little talent.
The Saric case is not the typical “draft and stash” example, as NBA teams usually employ this strategy for second-round draft picks whom they don’t feel command NBA contracts. The Celtics have five picks in the second round, and certainly could use this approach multiple times if they feel they can reach an agreement with a player and his representative on what’s best for the player’s career in the long term, saving NBA roster spots while holding their future playing rights.
Could the Celtics take Dragan Bender with the third overall pick and allow him to continue to play in Europe? Perhaps. It really depends on how ready they feel he is to enter the NBA after not even playing that much this season for Maccabi in Israel.
“I think that all of those things are on the table and we need to look at all of those,” Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said this week. “I think Brad [Stevens] asked in his contract extension to not have eight rookies this year. I think that was specifically written in.”
All kidding aside, would the Celtics avoid drafting a player like Bender, if he doesn’t want to stay overseas and would rather play in the NBA now?
“If we really like the guy, no, that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker,” Ainge added. [Draft-and-stash talks] will be finalized kind of after you draft a kid, sit down and determine a plan of action, but those discussions go on all the time, year-round, contract situations, age, different levels of maturity and in the players’ game, all those come into play. But it’s a partnership with the player, his representatives and the team to try to make the best decisions for him.”
|Sixers to ‘host’ Celtics in preseason tilt at UMass||06.06.16 at 12:01 pm ET|
The Celtics and Sixers have agreed to a deal.
No, they aren’t trading players or picks yet. The two teams announced Monday that the Sixers will host the Celtics in a preseason game at the Mullins Center on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
While the Mullins Center is obviously closer to Boston than Philadelphia, the Sixers have more ties to Amherst location. Julius Erving, the most famous UMass hoops alumnus, was an 11-time NBA All-Star, 1980-81 NBA MVP, 1983 NBA Champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Dr. J. starred at UMass from 1969-71, averaging 26 points and 20 rebounds in 38 minutes per game over his two collegiate seasons.
Former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby and former Sixers guard Al Skinner are among seven players in NBA history who attended the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The Sixers play in the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly, operated by Spectra Management, which also runs the Mullins Center.
Tickets as low as $30 are available this Thursday, June 9, through MullinsCenter.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 800-745-3000 or in person at the Mullins Center box office. Group discounts are available by calling the box office by phone.
The Sixers and Celtics were recently awarded the first and third overall picks, respectively, in the upcoming 2016 NBA Draft. Philadelphia also owns the 24th and 26th overall selections. Boston is also scheduled to select at No. 16 and No. 23 in the first round.
Philadelphia and Boston last met at UMass on October 8, 2008 when the Sixers defeated the defending NBA champion Celtics 98-92 in a preseason opener at the Mullins Center. The game marked two-time All-Star forward Elton Brand’s debut in a Sixers uniform.
|Brad Stevens on badly needed win: ‘Guys played with good purpose’||03.20.16 at 11:43 pm ET|
It may not have looked great for all 48 minutes, but the Celtics responded at key moments Sunday night and their coach was paying close attention.
Brad Stevens knew going into Philadelphia with a four-game losing skid, coming out lethargic like they did in Toronto 48 hours earlier was not an option.
The Celtics did fall behind 9-4 early but ended the first quarter with a 24-7 run and never trailed the rest of the way. They held the Sixers to 32 percent shooting in the first half in taking a 55-44 lead at the half. They did allow Philly to score 35 points in the third quarter, as the Sixers took advantage of some porous transition and low post defense. But the Celtics recovered nicely to close out their 40th win of the season.
“Except for the third quarter, we were really good,” Stevens told reporters after. “I thought we were really locked in, defensively. But the in third quarter, we have up 35 points and we weren’t. And you could see that at the third when we were trading baskets instead of really locking down. Hey, our guys came out ready, came out focused.”
The win improved the Celtics to 40-30 on the season, matching their total from last year. And now, they’re just a half-game behind Miami (40-29) for fourth in the Eastern Conference. As a matter of fact, starting with third-place Atlanta (41-29), only 1.5 games separates third from sixth in the East. Charlotte enters Monday with a 39-30 mark.
“We knew it was an important game to play well,” Stevens said. “We can’t always control the results but you can control your input into it. Guys played with good purpose.”
Nothing’s automatic in the NBA. But Sunday night was about the closest thing to it for a road team badly in need of a win.
Amir Johnson scored a season-high 18 points while Isaiah Thomas scored 13 of his team-leading 26 points in the third quarter, as the Celtics ended their four-game losing skid with a 120-105 win over the historically inept 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Avery Bradley added 20 points and four steals for the Celtics, who matched their win total of last season and improved to 40-30 with 12 games left in the season. The 76ers (9-61), with precious little NBA talent at their disposal due to injury, lost for the 22nd time in 24 games. If they were to lose their last 11 games, they would match the 1972-73 Sixers for the worst record in NBA history.
All of the above not withstanding not to say the Celtics didn’t have some moments where you wondered if they were going to let the Sixers hang around.
The Sixers, who were led by a season-best 26 points off the bench from Carl Landry, opened the game impressively, shooting out to a 9-4 lead. But the Celtics quickly went into the paint and established some interior dominance, outscoring the Sixers, 24-7, to close out the first quarter and take a 28-16 lead. The 16 points allowed marked a season-best by the Celtics defense in any quarter, accomplished twice previously.
But an 8-0 run by Philadelphia to open the second quarter capped a 10-0 spurt and drew the Sixers within four, 28-24. After the Sixers again closed to within four, 35-31, the Celtics scored the next 11 points and raced out to 46-31 lead.
The Celtics maintained control of the game the rest of the half as they took a 55-44 lead to the locker room. Avery Bradley (15 points) and Amir Johnson (12) combined for 27 points after totaling 12 on Friday night.
|Report: Jahlil Okafor was the unnamed target for Celtics on trade deadline day||02.20.16 at 1:56 am ET|
The unnamed star that would’ve surprised everyone is Philadelphia center Jahlil Okafor.
Ainge told WEEI’s OM&F he was “very close” to acquiring a player at the Thursday trade deadline but that the other team backed out at the last moment.
Okafor is having an impressive statistical season for the wretched Sixers, who fell to 8-46 this season Friday night. The rookie out of Duke is averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 45 games this season.
There’s a good amount of irony in the report about the pursuit of Okafor.
One of his nicknames is “Little Sully” while Okafor, then 19 years old, was the same person who found trouble in a Boston nightclub after Philadelphia’s opening night loss to the Celtics.
Okafor is considered one of the best pure offensive options in the low post, especially rare for a young player who just turned 20. But his biggest liability is defense.
Still, the Celtics apparently were all in on doing the deal for the rare low post offensive talent before the combination of Philadelphia team president Jerry Colangelo and general manager Sam Hinke pulled back.
|Brad Stevens gets an early look at strength of his team: ‘Our bench has to be a great source of energy’||10.29.15 at 10:43 am ET|
The Celtics started off slowly to the lowly 76ers, trailing by as many as nine, 26-17, in the first quarter. Boston made just six of its first 21 shots and could find no rhythm.
The young 76ers had rookie Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel running the court, and scoring. And the Celtics looked flat.
Then the bench started to make the impact that it was built all offseason to make. Slowly but surely, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson made their impact, some faster than others. Thomas missed his first four shots before finding his range, on his way to a game-high 27-point night. Johnson added 15 and Sullinger chipped in with 12 as the vision of Danny Ainge was clear for everyone to see.
When it was all said and done, the Celtics bench outscored Philly reserves, 67-15, in walking away with a 112-95 win. That’s exactly what Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens had in mind when they built the deepest roster in the NBA in the offseason.
“Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us,” Stevens said. “And I thought [the Sixers] came out of the gates great. Okafor was really hard for us to guard early ‘ and then Noel, I just thought they had a great impact on the game on both ends. So, we found ourselves in a hole which probably isn’t all bad in your first game, to see how you respond, and we responded. Any time we cut it close I thought we responded. I thought we missed some things that we can clean up, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Down 26-17, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 21-2, over the next eight minutes. Thomas and Sullinger each had six points in the run.
The bench was also the reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Sixers each time they made a run. Three times the Sixers got as close as five points and each time the Celtics answered, including a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third, when Thomas hit a three right before the buzzer.
“The end of the quarters are important to us,” Stevens said. “We want to finish well, we want to do well in those situations. And those were big for us tonight. But I thought just as big was they’d cut it to five and we’d go on a 7-0 run. They’d cut it to, I believe it was three one time, we go on a 6-0 run. So those are good responses in those moments.”
|Isaiah Thomas shoots himself into a groove in opening night win: ‘I’m not going to be shy’||at 12:36 am ET|
Isaiah Thomas is very happy that his coach doesn’t get discouraged by a little cold streak.
Thomas made three of his next five shots and that was a sign of things to come as the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-14, in the second quarter, grabbing control of the game, 51-40, at the halftime break.
Smart his 5-of-8 shots in the third quarter, including a three at the buzzer as the Celtics took a 79-67 lead into the final quarter.
“I mean that’s the biggest thing,” Brad Stevens said. “We’ve talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him. We know a hot streak is coming.”
Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics cruised to a 112-95 win in the season opener at TD Garden.
“That’s my job,” Thomas said of keeping the shots coming. “I’m not going to be shy when I’ve got a job to do out there. Coach has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive ‘ so I’m going to continue to do that.”
“I work on it ‘ each and every day,” Thomas said. “I know that some point in time, it’s going to fall. I have that confidence in my game, and I work on my craft, so I think the harder you work, and when it doesn’t happen in games, you go to what you know. When I get into the spots that I like to go to in my workouts, and feeding off my teammates, no matter if I’m having a good game or not, you have to just make the right play out there. If the right play is to shoot, and I’m not making them, I have to continue to shoot that shot.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Austin Ainge Offers Window to C's Pre-Draft Process
- Trade Possibilities for C's with Draft Approaching
- Latest Buzz Surrounding Jamal Crawford, Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics'...
- Latest NBA Trade Rumors, Buzz
- Ranking Celtics' Biggest NBA Draft Needs
- Buzz Surrounding Ty Lawson, Celtics Draft Plans and More
- Realistic Targets for Celtics to Chase During Offseason