OFFSEASON

Allen frustrated, not worried

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Allen frustrated, not worried

BOSTON -- Theres a difference between worry and frustration.
After falling to 5-9 and losing six of their last seven games on Friday, Ray Allen is feeling the latter.
I dont have a worry about it because if I had a team that had guys on here that couldnt play, couldnt understand how to play this game, they were young and had to learn, I would be troubled, he said following the Celtics 79-71 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Whats frustrating about it is I do have guys that know how to play and understand the game.

Allen scored a team-high 14 points (4-8 FG) and noted that he, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce havent been having the freedom to score as much as they did in the past when they had more open looks and better ball movement. The trios scoring averages are all down from last season.
The Celtics have to change to get back on track, and theyre looking for an answer.
I dont know if weve got to simplify it or switch it around just a little bit different, said Allen. But I think weve got to stop over thinking it. When we get the ball, weve got to post up more, I think, but we definitely just have to be able to put the ball in the hoop. I think it changes a lot of whats been ailing us.
In spite of their struggles this season, Allen knows what his teammates are capable of. With the exception of Kendrick Perkins, it is the same starting group that won a title in 2008 and came close in following seasons. They may be older, but Allen believes they still have what it takes to win.
Its tough. Ive played on teams where you lose a lot, but this locker room, were not losers, he said. This hurts everybody deeply, so weve got to figure out how to get better and how to help each other get better.

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant and Reggie Lewis: A number of similarities

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Kevin Durant and Reggie Lewis: A number of similarities

Boston has never stopped dreaming about Kevin Durant racing down the parquet floor in Celtics green. The vision feels as fresh today, with Durant set to enter free agency, as it did nine years ago, when the Celts had the second-best odds at landing him in the 2007 draft.

But fate intervened. The ping-pong balls fell wrong, the Celtics ended up with the fifth pick, Durant went to Seattle, and Danny Ainge constructed the new Big 3.

Even though it worked out fine -- remember Banner 17? -- Boston’s feelings for Durant haven’t diminished. Fans still wonder what would’ve happened had the C’s won the lottery and landed Durant.

With rumors swirling around the Celtics’ looming pursuit of Durant, Isaiah Thomas recently sent out a tweet with Durant's No. 35 next to a green shamrock. The tweet was representative of Boston’s all-in recruitment of Durant, but it also sent a reminder to fans of what could’ve been -- not just of Durant, but of another No. 35.

Durant isn’t just any NBA superstar to Celtics fans. At a subconscious level, Durant is a reminder of Reggie Lewis.

Celtic fans have always wondered what could’ve been if, 23 years ago, Lewis hadn’t passed away at the age of 27. But beyond the vexing question of “What if?” Durant’s resemblance to Lewis extends deep.

Like Lewis, Durant is lanky with wide shoulders and long arms. Like Lewis, Durant can score by shooting over the top or by dunking loudly at the rim. Durant has the chance to deliver the promise that Lewis showed, a beacon of hope for a franchise starved for a championship.

Durant will listen to the Celtics’ pitch when free agency opens on July 1. Boston has plenty to offer: Strong organizational stability, a cohesive locker room, the assets to add multiple players.

But the Celts can pitch much than that, if they choose, by offering Durant -- who wears No. 35 in Oklahoma City -- the opportunity to honor the life of Reggie Lewis by wearing his retired No. 35.

I asked Lewis’ mother, Inez Ritch, how she’d feel if the Celtics asked for her blessing to offer No. 35 to Durant as a tribute to her son.

“I don’t think it would take anything from Reggie because his number is still hanging up in the Garden,” Ritch told me over the phone. “If I see Durant running up and down the court with the No. 35, I don’t know how my emotions would be until it happens.

"I don’t think I would be upset about it. I think it would be a good thing because he is a very nice, humble young man. I don’t know a lot about him, but I know of some of the things he has achieved while wearing the No. 35.”

It’s not an unprecedented move for pro sports team to unretire a number. The Spurs gave Bruce Bowen’s No. 12 to LaMarcus Aldridge. Syracuse recently restored Jim Brown’s No. 44. The Broncos gave Frank Tripucka’s No. 18 to Peyton Manning.

Having a player of Durant’s stature wear Lewis’ No. 35 would stand as a symbol of the Celtics’ 70-year history. Lewis was 27 was when he passed away in 1993. Durant, who turns 28 in November, could carry on the tradition with honor.

“You can feel the tradition walking in here,” Durant once said in respect to Celtics lore. “You see all the guys plastered on the walls as you walk into the locker room. The tradition of being a Boston Celtic is second to none.”

In the private confines of the visitor’s locker room at TD Garden, the stories continued. Speaking with myself and a few other reporters, Durant described how Kendrick Perkins raved about his time in Boston. The fans. The front office. The legacy. Then, as Durant walked slowly down the hallway towards his team bus, he looked at the Celtics legends pictured on the wall and whispered, “Man, there's a lot of history in this building."

The Celtics retired Lewis’ No. 35 in 1995 not only for his triumphs on the court, but his impact off it. Lewis was active in the community in Boston and at home in the Baltimore area. He ran his own foundation and always participated in community events that helped children in need.

“It was quite an honor to have my child be recognized in this manner for the achievements that he had achieved in the short time,” Ritch said. “And to know that people all over loved him so much, it’s quite an honor to be able to say that was my little boy.”

Durant grew up only one hour away from Lewis, in Washington D.C., and today has his own foundation that aims to enrich the lives of at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds. The struggling D.C./Baltimore area longs for him to return home, but Boston isn’t far and could serve as a close connection to the area.

Both on and off the court, Durant is the only player in sports that can ‘remember Reggie.’ There is no other player the Celtics should even consider offering the number to. There’s something poetic about even the thought of it. It almost feels like destiny.

The No. 35 will always belong to Reggie Lewis, but Kevin Durant is a player fitting to continue his legacy.

 

OFFSEASON

Smart: 'Any team would love to see Durant; his type of caliber of player on their team'

Smart: 'Any team would love to see Durant; his type of caliber of player on their team'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart is no different than the average NBA fan this summer when it comes to Oklahoma City free agent-to-be Kevin Durant.

Durant, the runaway valedictorian of this summer’s free agent class, will begin to officially hear overtures for his services from NBA teams on Friday, the first day of free agency.

The former league MVP has a short list of teams that he’s reportedly considering, with the Celtics being among those to make the cut for meeting with Durant shortly after the free agency period begins. Others include his current team Oklahoma City as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami and San Antonio.

Boston has had a longing for some of the top free agents in past years, but to be on the short list of teams for player of Durant’s stature, is somewhat surprising.

“They (Celtics) want him just as bad as the other teams that he’s meeting with,” a league executive told CSNNE.com who is not among the franchises slated to meet with Durant in the coming days. “The fact that they’re on the short list is a huge feather in the Celtics’ cap.”

Smart is well aware that Boston has an uphill climb when it comes to landing Durant, a player he used to watch when he was at Oklahoma State and Durant was starring for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Any team would love to see Durant; his type of caliber of player on their team,” Smart said on Tuesday during his basketball camp at Brandeis University. “We’re not the ones who make that call. We just sit back and wait and whatever decision that the front office makes we’re ready to run with it.”

Among those decisions was to keep the current group intact on draft night when there were a handful of potential moves that the Celtics could have made.

“He’s trying to keep this core group together and keep us together as a team,” said Smart who added, “It’s hard. Like I said, you have to give credit to Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) for doing the things that he does. We trust in him; we believe in him.”

Smart, entering his third season, was among the player names thrown about as potentially being on the move on draft night.

I asked him what that was like, while still being such a relatively young player.

“To be honest, hearing your name in the trade rumors is a good thing,” Smart said. “Just because it lets you know other teams want you; that other teams are trying to get you. It’s a good and bad thing. Especially you been in a city for so long, you connect with the people, the fans, the community, the organization, you’re like, ‘dang!’ But at the same time, it lets you know you are a valuable person.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

OFFSEASON

Al Horford 'expected to draw free-agent interest' from Boston Celtics

Al Horford 'expected to draw free-agent interest' from Boston Celtics

Al Horford will reportedly have a long list of suitors when NBA free agency opens on July 1, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. The Celtics are one of eight teams expected to pursue Horford, a list that also includes the Hawks, Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Wizards, and Nets.

Stein adds that, in addition to wanting to re-sign Horford, the Hawks are “trying to wedge their way into the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.”

Zach Lowe reported in February that Durant had interest in playing with Horford next season. They entered the league together in 2007 and have remained friends. If that’s true, it’s good news for the Celtics. They are the only team on the list of eight teams that can sign both Durant and Horford to max contracts without moving a single piece to make it work.

A few other teams, like the Hawks and Magic, would have to sacrifice talent to free up the necessary cap space. No reports have indicated Durant has interest in Atlanta anyway, only that they want a shot at him. Who doesn't?

If Stein’s report is accurate, the Celtics will probably look to pair Durant and Horford together as part of their pitch to the superstar.

Horford would solve Boston’s rim protection issues, and provide some spacing. And Durant would…well, you know the deal: he’s a Hall of Famer in the prime of his career.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA