Downs showing why Celtics brought him to camp

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Downs showing why Celtics brought him to camp

HARTFORD -- There was no mistaking the anger, frustration and disappointment on Micah Downs' face as his potential go-ahead basket late in the game hit the back of the rim and bounced out in Boston's overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday.

It was a game that won't matter much in terms of how the Boston Celtics will fare this season.

But for the Celtics coaching staff, it was their first look at Downs over an extended period of time.

And although the outcome certainly wasn't what Downs or the C's would have liked, he did show glimpses of the potential that made him a last-minute addition to the training camp roster.

"I have to earn my stripes," Downs told CSNNE.com. "Just being ready and take advantage of your opportunities. That's your lifeline."

Being among the handful of players in camp without a fully guaranteed contract, Downs knows every chance to impress can not be taken for granted.

And even with the late-game miss, Downs showed some of the qualities that made him a player Danny Ainge really wanted to add to the C's training-camp roster.

To Downs' credit, he made the most of his extended action during the preseason on Saturday with a game-high tying seven rebounds in just under 14 minutes.

"He's a good player," Ainge told CSNNE.com earlier. "He might seem like a mystery to some people, but not to us. He was one of the top players in the country when he came out of high school, so we've known about Micah Downs for quite some time."

A 6-foot-8 wing forward, Downs was a 2005 McDonald's All-American, a class that included current NBA players such as Monta Ellis (Milwaukee), Amir Johnson (Toronto), Martell Webster (Washington), Louis Williams (Atlanta) and former Celtic Gerald Green.

After signing with Kansas, Downs would later transfer to Gonzaga, where he had a solid but not spectacular career.

Since then, he has played in Croatia, Belgium and Spain, in addition to being part of NBA summer league squads in Dallas, Milwaukee and Phoenix.

Downs said he was planning to go back overseas, but decided to put that on hold to see if there was an NBA team willing to bring him in for training camp.

Soon after, his agent got a call from the Celtics.

"I hadn't done an NBA training camp, and I'm 26 years old," said Downs, who added that he had a workout in Boston earlier this summer. "Boston called and said, 'Hey, come on. We'd love to have you.' So here I am."

And while Downs' chances of sticking with the Celtics beyond training camp are still slim, he has no regrets about participating in the C's training camp which included games in Turkey and Italy last week.

"It's a great opportunity, a real fun experience playing at this level," Downs said. "It's my first time playing at this level. There's summer league but these preseason games, people are dialing in, figuring out their stuff; just being out here is a great opportunity and I am really thankful for it. I'm having a really good time."

But Downs is wise enough to know that he could get cut at any moment, which is why plan B will be to play with a team overseas.

"For sure, without a doubt," said Downs whose athletic, above-the-rim brand of basketball served him well last year in Spain. "That's always in the back of your mind. especially a guy like me that doesn't have a 3-year guaranteed deal or a 5-year guaranteed deal."

He has other things on his mind well; namely, his 5-month old son Isaiah.

"Yeah, just had my first kid, I'm married. I'm out here grinding, doing what I can to make the team and just prove I can play at this level," Downs said. "But if I don't make the team, that'll earn me some more respect and maybe a couple more dollars if I have to go back overseas. Just another thing to put on my resume."

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.