OFFSEASON

Celtics over Raptors from start to finish, 81-73

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Celtics over Raptors from start to finish, 81-73

BOSTON -- With just four days before their regular season opener in New York City, the Boston Celtics made the most of their final preseason game with a 81-73 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Paul Pierce (right heel) did not play and Sasha Pavlovic got the start in his place.

Rajon Rondo, often criticized for his offensive game, had the hot hand in the first quarter. He scored 10 points in eight minutes, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and making a pair of free throws. The Cs led 22-13 after the first 12 minutes.

The Celtics got a good look at Greg Steimsma in the second quarter. The big man played all but 20 seconds, scoring seven points and making hustle plays. DeMar DeRozan scored half of the Raptors 18 second-quarter points, but his efforts were not enough to get his team back in it. At halftime, the Celtics held a 47-31 lead.

But with the starters on the bench, the Celtics reserves struggled to stay consistent in the third quarter. The Raptors outscored the Cs, 22-20.

When it came down to the final quarter, a young Celtics group held off for the win. Avery Bradley, ETwaun Moore, Gilbert Brown, JaJuan Johnson, Jamal Sampson, and Steimsma all saw playing time, while veteran journeyman Michael Sweetney scored a crowd-pleasing basket.

Andrea Bargnani led all players with 20 points (7-17 FG, 68 FT) while Rondo led the Celtics with 17 points (6-10 FG, 5-6 FT) and six assists. Brandon Bass and Moore combined for 23 points off the bench.

The Celtics finished preseason action 2-0 with both wins coming against the Raptors. They will face the Knicks on Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden.

OFFSEASON

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

BOSTON – The Celtics are considered long shots at landing Kevin Durant during free agency, which begins next week.

Still, if they come up short this summer, league sources tell CSNNE.com that the Celtics will be on a “watch list” of sorts by Durant’s camp when the former league MVP is expected to hit the free agent market once again in the summer of 2017.
 
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Durant will have teams meet with him in New York beginning next week. In addition to the Celtics, his current team Oklahoma City will sit down with him, as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Durant can re-sign with the Thunder for as many as five years with the total value of his contract worth slightly more than $150 million.
 
However, by signing a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option for the second season, Durant would make a projected $25.9 million for the 2016-2017 season and can then hit the free agent market again in 2017 when the salary cap is expected to cross the nine-figure threshold.
 
And at that time, if he decides to stay with the Thunder, he can ink a five-year deal that, when combined with his salary in 2016-2017, would be more than $230 million over six years – that’s about $80 million more than he would get by re-signing a long-term deal with the Thunder now, and would more than double what he would make by signing a maximum-salaried four-year deal with another team.
 
That’s why it makes a lot of sense for him to sign a short-term deal now and better position himself for a bigger payday the following summer when his starting salary will likely be on the north side of $35 million.
 
For the Celtics, Durant going through free agency back-to-back years affords coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics one more opportunity to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings while still being a team that’s clearly in need of adding at least one additional All-Star talent to play with Isaiah Thomas.

In his three seasons as the Celtics coach, Stevens has improved the team’s win total each season.
 
However, they have failed to win a playoff series after having been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
 
While Durant is the team’s No. 1 priority on the free agent market, the Celtics will quickly pivot their attentions to other highly-regarded players as well with Atlanta’s Al Horford being among their targets.

Depending on how quickly Durant’s free agency gets taken care of, the Celtics might be able to turn their attention towards potentially re-signing Evan Turner, who was sixth in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting last season.

OFFSEASON

Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

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Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

With the Celtics reportedly in the running in the Kevin Durant Derby, C's guard Isaiah Thomas is continuing his recruiting pitch with this playful tweet.

Thomas said in a radio interview earlier this week that the Celtics "definitely have a shot" at landing Durant and a few months ago, Thomas' essay in the Players Tribune is perhaps his best sales job of all.