OFFSEASON

Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

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Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

BOSTON There was more passion, more fire, more of everything that Doc Rivers has been imploring the Boston Celtics to bring to the floor for weeks.
Sadly, it still wasn't enough as the New York Knicks pulled away in the second half for a 89-86 win.
New York pulled ahead 80-70 in the fourth, looking as though they were ready to put the C's away and the Celtics at that point, seemed more than willing to oblige.
But the Celtics started making shots, which as we've seen, is usually followed by better defense.
It shouldn't be that way, but it is what it is.
With Rajon Rondo leading the way, the C's went on a 12-4 run to come within two points.
A tip-in by New York's Tyson Chandler made it a four-point game, only for Rondo to come back with a pair of free throws to cut New York's lead to 86-84.
Rondo was getting it done on the defensive end as well, drawing an offensive foul against Carmelo Anthony with 1:53 to play.
The C's couldn't capitalize on the turnover, as the Knicks eventually got a 3-pointer from J.R. Smith with 1:11 to play to lead, 89-84.
Smith's shot was huge, but the hero for New York was Anthony, who just used and abused the Celtics defenders most of the night with either the pull-up jumper or driving to the basket before finishing with a game-high 28 points.
Even with Anthony having a big game, Boston had its chances afterward.
A Rondo jumper followed by a Jason Kidd miss, gave the Celtics a chance to tie the game with 13.1 seconds to play.
Following a Celtics timeout, Paul Pierce lost the ball out of bounds with 7.1 seconds to play.
Making matters worse, the C's could not get close enough to any of the Knicks players as time expired, a sequence that reinforced the fact that the C's continue to fail at executing effectively in late-game situations.
Pierce led the C's with 22 points -- only 3 in the second half -- while Rondo collected his 27th career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Boston (20-22) has now lost five straight for the first time this season, and just the third time (twice last season) since the 2008 title run.
With so much attention paid to the post-game events in their Jan. 7 matchup involving Anthony and Kevin Garnett, it took much of the attention off what was a game that both teams desperately needed for different Knicks.
New York (26-14) came in atop the Atlantic Division by half a game, with the Brooklyn Nets nipping at their heels. The Celtics came in having lost four in a row and were looking to avoid a five-game losing skid.
Both teams delivered the kind of high intensity play that kept the game relatively close in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 24-20.
One of the keys to Boston's slim lead was what turned out to be a near-perfect quarter with the C's committing zero turnovers.
The second quarter did not go quite as well for the Celtics, with the Knicks going almost exclusively with multiple zone coverages.
Rather than attacking the interior of the zone, the C's relied on what they have relied on all season -- jumpers.
And has been the case often this season, those shots were off the mark which allowed the Knicks to spend a good chunk of the second quarter with a lead.
Boston eventually snapped out of his jump-shooting trance and began to try and score around the basket, or penetrate and kick out for what were open shots.
That was hit and miss for the C's, but the driving to the basket led to a surprisingly high number of free throw attempts.
But it was New York's work from the free throw line that proved to be the difference in the half, which ended with three made free throws by the Knicks which put them ahead, 50-48, at the half.
For Boston, Pierce was having a big night with 19 points in the first half, which was more points scored by the Captain than he had in each of the C's previous four games - all losses.
Boston pulled ahead 66-65 on a Jeff Green 3-pointer in the third quarter, but the Knicks closed out the third with a 7-0 run and the C's spent the rest of the game playing from behind.

OFFSEASON

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

You’re probably thinking the summer fireworks are finished after the Celtics brought back Tyler Zeller, added ex-Celtic Gerald Green, and signed rookies Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil. It’s true, these moves do lower the likelihood of a multifaceted trade, but it doesn’t totally extinguish the odds of something seismic happening.

The Celtics still retain their flexibility, since none of these deals have actually been finalized. Even after they are, they’d still have the pieces required to make a deal work for a superstar like Blake Griffin. It’s not hard to make a valid trade for one player, but it is difficult if it’s a multi-step process like a Russell Westbrook renegotiate-and-extend trade.

“This is not necessarily what the team will be,” a source told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s probably changes coming.”

Well, yeah. Changes have to come. The Celtics don’t really have a choice here.

Assuming Jaylen Brown is signed, they’ll have 18 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts. So at least three players will have to be exported before the season, since the NBA requires a maximum of 15 players on a roster.

Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current projected depth chart:

  STARTERS BENCH RESERVES ON THE BUBBLE
FRONT COURT Amir Johnson Kelly Olynyk Tyler Zeller  
Al Horford Jonas Jerebko Jordan Mickey Ben Bentil*
Jae Crowder Jaylen Brown* Gerald Green James Young
BACK COURT Avery Bradley Marcus Smart RJ Hunter John Holland*
Isaiah Thomas Terry Rozier Demetrius Jackson  

So, something has to happen. It’s just a matter of what. You can choose to believe the Celtics aren’t actually trying to make a blockbuster move. Or you can choose to believe the signals that have been firing off this month from the Celtics themselves indicating they’re “not done.”

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Celtics to get closer to 15 players by completing a blockbuster trade for a player like Griffin.
 
Perhaps some combination of veterans (Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, and Jonas Jerebko) with youth (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young) and draft picks (2018 Nets pick) could bring in Griffin and Paul Pierce.

Saturday’s moves make sense regardless of any transactions to follow.

Zeller is a bargain at just $8 million as a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. But, if Johnson were dealt, he’d be able to slide right up the depth chart as the team’s backup center.

Green shot 37.2 percent on spot up threes, per SportVU, over the past three years, so he provides spacing as a scorer who can catch fire. Considering Brad Stevens’ track record of sapping every ounce of talent out of each of his players -- hello, Jordan Crawford! -- it’s possible the Celtics will be getting the Green who scored an efficient 15.8 points per game just two years ago in Phoenix, and not the subpar Green who struggled to stay on the court last year in Miami.

If one or two of Boston’s young wings were dealt, Green, on a mere veteran minimum contract, would have an even easier path to playing time as a spark off the bench.

It’s difficult to read into the signings of second-round picks Jackson and Bentil, but either way the should both spend the season developing with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

The Celtics haven’t made a move yet, but they also haven’t done anything to suggest they’re entirely done. These moves could be precursors to something significant, or not. But at the least they provide depth to an already impressive roster.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

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Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

On a busy Saturday for the Celtics, they have brought back center Tyler Zeller and agreed to deals with draft picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier Saturday, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Celtics will sign guard Gerald Green. 

Himmelsbach reports that Zeller's is a $16 million, two-year deal with the second-year not guaranteed. Jackson, the point guard from Notre Dame who was the 45th overall selection in the draft, has a guaranteed deal and Bentil, the forward from Providence who was the 51st player drafted, has a partially guaranteed deal. 

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported that the second-year of Zeller's deal is a team option and that Green agreed to a one-year deal at the $1.4 million veteran mininum based on his nine years of NBA service.

The 7-foot Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game last season. 

R.J. Hunter, James Young, Bentil and John Holland are in position to fight for the final roster spot, Himmelsbach reports, pending more deals, which the Celtics are reportedly working on. A source told Himmelsbach, that while there are probably changes coming, "There is no big deal right now." 

Bulpett reported that Celtics' talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving a deal for Sixers' big man Jahlil Okafor have, according to sources, grown "stale" and that the moves Saturday put 2014 draft pick James Young's roster spot in jeopardy.

With Green, Zeller, and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have has 15 guaranteed contracts and three partial or non-guaranteed deals. 

 

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

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Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

The Celtics will sign free agent Gerald Green, the guard they drafted with the 18th overall pick back in 2005, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported.

Green, 30, played for the Miami Heat last season and averaged 8.9 points a game. Deveney reports Green will sign a one-year guaranteed contract. 

Green has been well-traveled since being traded by the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett deal in 2007, the year he won the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest. He has played for seven other NBA teams and played two seasons in Russia. His best season was 2013-14 in Phoenix when he averaged 15.8 points a game for the Suns. 

Deveney also reports that sources around the league continue to indicate the Celtics are looking to make a trade for a "star-caliber type" player. Last week, he reported on their interest in the Clippers' Blake Griffin.