OFFSEASON

Celtics showing interest in Maine's D-League All-Star Downs

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Celtics showing interest in Maine's D-League All-Star Downs

HOUSTON The European jaunt taken by the Boston Celtics to Turkey and Italy during the preseason seems so long ago right now.

For Micah Downs who was in the Celtics' training camp at that time, the memories are still relatively fresh.

Being around Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo was an experience that to this day, the 6-foot-8 forward cherishes.

And it was the many lessons learned being around them that have helped him elevate his game to being one of the top players in the D-League this season, evident by him being named a D-League All-Star this season.

But Downs is no different than every other D-League player.

He wants a shot at playing in the NBA, something that might come about very soon.

Downs is among the players the Celtics have had discussions about bringing aboard to fill one of the team's vacant roster spots.

"Yeah, I've been talking with Danny and with Austin here and there," Downs told CSNNE.com. "And my agent has been talking with them. There's some interest. They just keep telling me to keep playing hard and play the way I'm playing and good things will happen. I don't know if it will be soon, but I hope so."

Although the Celtics have a clear need for another point guard and a big man, head coach Doc Rivers said the team may look to add a player at a different position.

"Right now with all the injuries," Rivers said, "whoever is out there who we think is the best player, no matter what position, we'll just get them and figure out how to use them. I would rather have the best player, then a positional player."

One of the reasons Downs is starting to catch the eye of NBA teams, is his versatility.

In addition to 17.6 points per game, Downs is also averaging 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

"Micah is very versatile," said Red Claws coach Mike Taylor. "He's extremely athletic. He can shoot, he can post up, he can run the floor, can defend multiple positions. He is a guy I believe who can find his way, to help a team in whatever way they need him to be a contributor."

But that can only come about if given an opportunity which Downs appears to be on the cusp of receiving whether it's the Celtics or another NBA team.

Still, Downs is far from satisfied with his progress to this point.

He sees plenty of room in his game to get better, which is one of the many lessons he remembers all too well from his time with the Celtics during the preseason.

"You have to put your time in," he said. "You come to the gym and you see Paul (Pierce), you see (Rajon) Rondo, KG and these guys that have been in the league for so many years, still working at getting better, it shows you if you want to be at that level you have to put your time in."

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA