OFFSEASON

Horford out, Pachulia game-time decision for Hawks

742878.jpg

Horford out, Pachulia game-time decision for Hawks

ATLANTA The Boston Celtics aren't the only ones with a weakened roster due to injuries.

Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew confirmed that Al Horford will not play in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Horford had left pectoral surgery earlier this year and has missed all but 11 games this season.

The Hawks aren't sure if they'll have Horford's replacement, Zaza Pachulia available, either. He is suffering from a sprained left foot injury.

Drew said the team will not decide until shortly before tip-off if he will play on Sunday.

The Hawks have used Jason Collins at center lately, but won't rule out sliding Josh Smith over to the middle or possibly giving more minutes in the frontcourt to rookie Ivan Johnson or veteran Erick Dampier.

"We've had that issue a great majority of the season," Drew said. "Obviously with Al being gone, we've had games with Zaza out and we've made the adjustments. Obviously, Jason Collins is a guy that we like in this type of position because he's done so well with it. And we can go small at the five-spot, playing Josh at the five, Ivan at the five or we may move Damp, and give him some minutes. We're going to have to feel our way through this."

Smith, who averages a team-high 9.6 rebounds per game, is well aware that he and the rest of his teammates have to pick it up on the boards against the Celtics who come into Sunday's game as one of the NBA's worst - No. 29, to be exact - rebounding teams this season. The Hawks have had their problems as well, also ranking in the NBA's bottom 10 in rebounds per game.

"We gotta gang rebound," Smith told CSNNE.com. "Players have to get in there and rebound, including the guards."

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

durant-thunder-hand.jpg

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.