OFFSEASON

Ainge: Garnett decision to have very little impact on draft

784934.jpg

Ainge: Garnett decision to have very little impact on draft

WALTHAM Danny Ainge knew that the Boston Celtics would have stiff competition this summer for Kevin Garnett's services, the stiffest challenger being Father Time.

In his multiple conversations with Garnett since the C's season ended, Ainge said he has been given a sense that Garnett's decision will be between a return to Boston for an 18th NBA season, or retirement.

Because Garnett is eligible for an extension, Ainge has been able to speak freely with Garnett and his representatives leading up to free agency, which begins July 1.

Ainge said there's no deadline for Garnett to let the C's know what his intentions are, but Ainge added, "I'll know that by July 1. I'll be in communication with him, and have some sort of read on that."

If Garnett's decision doesn't come by then, Ainge acknowledged that it could put some of their plans this offseason on hold.

"The sooner we can get Kevin done, the better it would be for us, the sooner we would have an idea on what direction we need to go," said Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations. He added, "We don't want to rush him. We don't want to pressure him."

With a pair of first-round picks, the Celtics could look to add at least one big man who could help, but no one believes that a player in this draft, let alone a late first-round pick, could make up for the potential void left if Garnett decides to retire.

The best center most likely to still be on the board when the C's are on the clock at No. 21 and No. 22, is Syracuse's Fab Melo. Boston might also consider St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year who recently had his first workout with the Celtics.

While Garnett's uncertain status will weigh on all the moves being considered, Ainge said it will have "very little" impact on what the Celtics do on draft night.

"With us only having four guys under contract, we need every position filled," Ainge said.

Mickael Pietrus is also a free agent, and he has made it absolutely clear that he wants to return to Boston.

He has been in town the past few weeks working out, and is anxious for Sunday -- the first day of free agency -- to arrive.

But when it does finally get here, he understands the focus for Boston will be on two letters - KG - and two numbers - 1-8, as in Banner 18.

The two have had discussions since the season, with their talks most recently centering around soccer.

"We have a bet," Pietrus said from the Celtics' practice facility on Wednesday. "He's rooting for Germany. I'm rooting for Spain. So hopefully I collect on my bet Sunday, and he signs his new contract."

OFFSEASON

Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

BOSTON – The bewitching hour is nearly upon us when the Celtics can get down to the business of bolstering a roster that has shown tangible growth (read: more wins, baby!) every year under Brad Stevens.
 
The free agency period begins at the stroke of midnight tonight - the first shot Danny Ainge and company will get to make a case to free agents Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Dwight Howard.
 
Boston is one of six teams that Durant will meet with, so a decision by Durant isn’t expected immediately.
 
That may not be the case for Horford and Howard, who are among the most coveted free agents available and will likely get multi-year, near-max offers quickly.
 
In the past, Boston has added players that were targeted via free agency because they fit a very clear and well-defined role.
 
Boston wanted to add a rim-protector last summer, so they went out and signed Amir Johnson.
 
It certainly didn’t bring about the kind of “fireworks” Celtics fans were hoping for, but Johnson did prove to be a solid addition in helping Boston win 48 regular season games – the most under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
 
This summer is different.
 
The Celtics have to do more than just add a nice rotation player to the mix.
 
They need a stud; pure and simple.
 
They need to add a player who immediately comes in as a starter who can help jump-start Boston’s quest to become one of the game’s elite teams again.
 
Adding such a player is easier said than done, obviously.
 
And making it even more difficult now is, unlike past off-seasons when only a handful of teams came into free agency with fat pockets like Boston (they can potentially add two max-salary players), the league’s new TV deal kicks in this summer and has created a much larger field of financial fat cats.
 
With money not being as big a difference-maker now, decisions by players will likely come down to opportunity to play and comfort level with an organization.
 
And that is a good thing for the Celtics.
 
Getting  coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Ainge signed to long-term extensions was about more than just continuity within the organization.
 
It also sent a strong message to potential free agents that the guys you are negotiating with now, aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
 
And with Stevens at the helm, a number of players have come through Boston and left better for the experience, basketball-wise and financially.
 
Evan Turner came to Boston two years ago as a player many dubbed as a bust. He leaves as one of the game’s most versatile perimeter players who will land a salary that will more than triple the $3.4 million he made last season.
 
It is that quality that may convince Dwight Howard to sign with Boston. You will be hard-pressed to find a player as heavily criticized as Howard (much of which he has brought upon himself) who can still play at a fairly high level.
 
Last season was one of his worst in the NBA and he still averaged a double-double of 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game along with 1.6 blocked shots.
 
Getting him back to being one of the league’s elite centers would be the greatest reclamation success story ever for Stevens and would provide Boston with an impact free agent, a sight seldom (if ever) seen donning a Celtics jersey.

OFFSEASON

Isaiah Thomas on Dwight Howard: "Who wouldn't want a guy like that on your team"

Isaiah Thomas on Dwight Howard: "Who wouldn't want a guy like that on your team"

Isaiah Thomas joins Johnston & Flynn (in for Toucher & Rich) to discuss his recruitment of Kevin Durant and other NBA players increasing interest level in coming to Boston to play for the Celtics.