OFFSEASON

Celtics continue to make it hard on themselves

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Celtics continue to make it hard on themselves

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics haven't made anything easy for themselves this season.

Why would they start in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals?

After winning a critical Game 5 on the road in Miami, the Celtics were positioned to close out the series and send the Heat back to South Beach with the Oklahoma City Thunder already waiting in the wings in the NBA Finals.

Instead, they surrendered their home court advantage early on, leading by just two points the entire game. LeBron James single-handedly forced a deciding Game 7 with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Heats 98-79 victory.

The Celtics have been in this situation before. They went to seven games in the previous round against the Philadelphia 76ers and have played numerous seven-game series in the New Big Three Era.

But this time they are on the road, away from the cheers of their home crowd that lasted until the final buzzer on Thursday night, and forced to fend off injuries, fatigue, and the looming shadow of James.

This team has been about adversity all year long, said Paul Pierce. This isnt going to be anything new. Its been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldnt it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the Finals is hard, and this is as hard as it gets. And I think we are prepared for it.

The Cs will make adjustments and try to right their wrongs from Game 6. They already know how to beat the Heat -- they did it in three straight games -- and now it is a matter of executing the game plan.

It goes beyond stopping James. Paul Pierce talked about recovering during the game. Rajon Rondo discussed taking care of the ball and getting into his sets. Keyon Dooling talked about playing team defense.

For the Celtics, the key is putting all of the pieces together on Saturday night.

Nothing has been easy up until this point, said Kevin Garnett. Cant expect it now. It is what it is. Were going to take these cards and play them. Lot of confident guys in here. Lot of guys whove been through Game 7s. Lot of experienced guys. Were going to lean on that and were going to fight. A bunch of fighters in this locker room.

As the Cs look ahead to Game 7, they see it as just another obstacle they will have to overcome. It will be the biggest challenge they have faced all season, but one they feel they have been battle tested to survive.

Honestly, that was a great opportunity, but we have another opportunity, said Doc Rivers. We get to play another game, Game 7. I would say most of the people in this room would have said, Wow, theyre going to get to Game 7. Well take it. Thats the way we have to view it. We won a game at theirs, they won here. Now we get to play for all the marbles. This team has not done it the easy way this year. Maybe this is justified for us -- go in there and do it.

OFFSEASON

Future uncertain for Johnson and Jerebko as Celtics pursue Durant

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Future uncertain for Johnson and Jerebko as Celtics pursue Durant

BOSTON -- When you’re the Boston Celtics and you have your sights set on a star like Kevin Durant, the potential impact on your roster is undeniable.

That’s a good thing, right?

Well . . . not exactly.

One of the options that the Celtics are considering during the free agency period is whether to waive Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko before July 3 which would create additional salary cap space to potentially sign Durant and another near max-salaried player.

But here’s the problem.

Boston could potentially waive Johnson and Jerebko, fail to get Durant or another elite free agent and see the duo gone for nothing in return while they play their way into a big contract toiling in the NBA’s basement with one of the league’s worst teams.

How you ask?

Multiple league sources contacted by CSNNE.com Tuesday night indicated that if the Celtics waive both players, it’s “very likely” that both will be claimed off waivers.

According to a league office official, waiver priority goes to the team with the worst record attempting to claim a player.

And what team had the worst record in the NBA last season?

Yup. The 10-win Philadelphia 76ers.

And what team was right behind them, or ahead depending on how you look at things?

The lowly, 17-win Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson is due $12 million next season while Jerebko is due to earn $5 million, chump change in this new age of the NBA with the 2016-2017 salary cap expected to be around $94 million.

In addition, both players would join clubs in contract years. Couple that with each being relatively productive and there’s the potential for each player to have a really big season.

Johnson was the Celtics’ top rim-protector last season, in addition to being a solid pick-and-roll defender. He also averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds with 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game. 

And Jerebko shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range last season, and finished up the playoffs in the starting lineup.

The Celtics are well aware of how valuable both players were to Boston’s success last season, and how their production relative to their contracts makes them extremely important to whatever team they play for.

To lose them for what would essentially be a lottery ticket in the Durant sweepstakes, is certainly a gamble that it remains to be seen if the Celtics are willing to take.

Best-case scenario for Boston is to know where they stand with Durant within the first 24 hours of free agency which would then allow them time to make a more informed decision about Johnson and Jerebko’s futures.

As you can imagine, the Celtics are as eager as any team to know what Durant plans to do this summer.

Because the way things are starting to take shape with Boston’s pursuit of the former league MVP, he’s going to have an impact on the Celtics’ roster one way or another.