OFFSEASON

Celtics-Knicks preview: Melo-drama in Boston

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Melo-drama in Boston

BOSTON Regardless of the records, when Boston faces the New York Knicks it is usually a big game. Tonight's is no exception.

This will be the first time the two teams have faced off since the Jan. 7 "Melo-drama" incident in which Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, upset with some of Kevin Garnett's in-game trash talk, initially went towards the C's locker room and later waited for Garnett by the C's team bus.

The league wound up suspending Anthony one game for his actions.

While that will certainly be a topic of discussion leading up to tonight's game, the Celtics have much bigger problems on their plate.

There's the four-game losing streak they are currently on which is equal to their longest losing skid this season.

A loss tonight by the Celtics would be just the third, five-game losing streak since Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston prior to the 2008 title run.

The two previous such skids? They came during last season's lockout-shortened season.

But the mindset of the C's right now isn't on avoiding another loss, but rather finding a way to win.

The goal now isn't all that different than what it has been all season, which is to develop some form of consistent play.

But more than that, the C's need a win ... now.

"We all understood when we came here that this was going to be a process," C's guard Jason Terry told CSNNE.com. "It's just that the process is taking a little longer than we thought it would. But it's still a process. There's a lot of season still left to play and even though we're not playing as well as we would want to be now, there's still time for us to get it going, start stringing some wins here together and position ourselves to achieve our goals."

Here are some keys to tonight's game against the Knicks who come in atop the Atlantic Division despite having lost four of their last six games which includes a home loss to the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will be on Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony to see if there's any residual beef between them after the Jan. 7 incidents. Both have said it's done with and there won't be any issues. But with these two highly emotional players, what they say and what we see may not necessarily be one in the same.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Iman Shumpert. Two of the best on-the-ball defenders you'll find in the NBA, it'll be interesting to see which of them will make the greatest difference in terms of impact tonight either with their defense or shot-making. Because of the players around them, chances are pretty good that both will have a decent amount of wide open to lightly contested shots for the taking.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has questioned whether some of his teammates understand the sense of urgency that the C's need to have, but the Captain has to do more than talk the talk. He is in the midst of one of his usual shooting slumps, but the sooner he can snap out of it the quicker the C's recovery -- if they are to have one this season -- will begin to take shape.

STAT TO TRACK: Free throw shooting has been a major factor in the C's last four games - all losses. Not are the Celtics shooting a lower percentage (69.2 percent compared to opponents shooting 77.6 percent in the last four games), but they are not getting to the line nearly enough. How bad has it been? The C's last four opponents have made a total of 90 free throws (out of 116 attempts). In that same span, the Celtics have taken just 91 free throws (63 made).

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.