OFFSEASON

Celtics Question of the Day: Who will you miss most from last season?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Who will you miss most from last season?

While much has been made of how Danny Ainge has brought the Boston Celtics' core group back for another run at Banner 18, that's not what the numbers tell us.

Less than half of the players on last season's team are returning, which means those lineup cards are sure to come in handy for fans during the early part of the season.

Most would agree that this new-look Celtics squad is better on paper at least, than last season's club. But with every new team filled with new players, arises new pot holes that potentially need to be filled by the departed.

Of the players that are no longer with the Celtics, the player Boston will likely miss the most is Mickael Pietrus.

MP. The Flying Frenchman. Air France.

Whatever you call him, Pietrus was a player that became an instant hit among Celtics Nation and his teammates.

"He's got a lot of intangibles," Boston's Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com. "He really bothers people defensively, knocks down open 3s. He's like that glue guy, that in-between guy that you need to win a championship. You know what your stars are going to bring, but you need guys like him."

Part of the appeal of Pietrus was at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he was tall enough and strong enough to defend multiple perimeter positions as well as some forwards if teams went with a small-ball lineup.

Throughout his career, he had shown a knack for stepping up and knocking down big shots in big games, too. But his most endearing quality around here was that maybe more than any player with so little time around the franchise, Pietrus wanted to be a Celtic.

You hear players sing that tune whenever they come to a new city.

But with Pietrus, it was different.

When the Phoenix Suns cut him loose and allowed him to become a free agent, Pietrus' camp didn't waste any time putting the word out that he wanted to come to Boston. He didn't care about Boston's depth at his position. He didn't care that there was no way in the world he would start, or have a chance to start.

All he wanted was a chance to play for the Green Team.

And it wasn't just lip service, either. At no point was this more evident than the start of the season when he was talking about winning a championship while the C's were trying to be an above-.500 team.

So for Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference finals was an expectation, not a goal, of Pietrus.

"I know this team; I know they would be better, a lot better the second half of the season," Pietrus told CSNNE.com.

Pietrus had flashes of being the impact player Boston wanted, but those times were few and far between. Part of that had to do with a series of injuries that to some degree limited his effectiveness throughout the season.

Within days of the C's season ending, Pietrus had surgery on his right knee that was operated on earlier in July of 2011. Although the surgery was deemed a success and Pietrus spoke about how much better he felt afterwards, it was unclear to many whether he could return to the level he was at just a couple years ago.

Still, that wouldn't keep Celtics fans from clamoring for his return or from Pietrus reiterating his desire to return to Boston.

The moment that cemented his relationship with Celtics fans came following his horrific spill in Philadelphia on March 23, one in which C's coach Doc Rivers feared Pietrus had suffered a career-ending neck injury at the time. Pietrus was taken off the floor on a stretcher, and later diagnosed with a Grade-Three Concussion.

In an exclusive interview with CSNNE.com less than 24 hours after the fall, Pietrus expressed how grateful he was that the injury wasn't more serious.

"Every time I see it (replay of the fall), it just makes me cry," he said. "Because I know it could have been so much worse for me."

As much as the injury hurt, he seemed to be more pained by the fact that the Celtics lost the game.

But in typical Pietrus fashion, he was upbeat even in defeat.

"We're going to be OK," he said. "We're Celtics. We're going to be OK."

Pietrus would eventually return to the lineup, but continued to struggle to develop the kind of consistency he's used to.

And while the C's have added more talent, they still do not have a versatile wing player with the ability to stretch defenses with their shot-making, and can hold their own defensively with the better small forwards.

It looks like the role that Pietrus had last season will be divvied up between a few different players.

Jeff Green is being pegged as Paul Pierce's backup at small forward and will draw some of the defensive matchups that Pietrus had last season. And the backcourt assignments that Pietrus was called into duty for, will now likely be split between Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley (whenever Bradley's shoulders heal to the point where he can return to action).

Still, there was an infectious optimism that he brought to the team that won't be easy to replace or replicate.

"He's a great spirit," Rivers said C's coach Doc Rivers. "The guy likes basketball and he plays hard. I'll take that all day."

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.