OFFSEASON

James to guard Garnett at times in Game 4

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James to guard Garnett at times in Game 4

BOSTON There will be no need to adjust your television set or find yourself pleasantly surprised by your XBox or some other gaming system of choice looking more life-like than you remember.

LeBron James will be guarding Kevin Garnett at some point in tonight's pivotal Game 4 matchup. between Boston and Miami.

For those who didn't stick around for the end of Boston's 101-91 Game 3 win over Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with an all-perimeter unit after his club fell behind big in the second half.

That group included James at center, defending Garnett.

Spoelstra was non-committal on whether the Heat would in fact go with a lineup that had James at center.

"We were playing out of desperation," Spoelstra said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

But James made it clear that he anticipated having to defend Garnett - who is at least three inches taller than him - at some point tonight.

"Well, we're going to have to go to it," James said of the small lineup. "It's just how our lineup is being played right now, especially with CB (Chris Bosh) being out. I'm going to be guarding him (Garnett) either in the case of lining up against him to start the possession or a switch."

And when that happens, it becomes one of the few times James and the word "mismatch" become a description of what an opponent has over him, and not vice versa.

James and the Heat have seen their share of big men throughout their playoff run.

But Garnett is a completely different - and in many ways more daunting - challenge than the others.

"KG is a difficult cover," James said. "First of all, he's a more prolific scorer than (New York Knicks center Tyson) Chandler and (Indiana's Roy) Hibbert. And when he gets to shoot, his wing span is he shoots higher than anybody we have in this league. So we have to do a better job of trying to help each the out and not expose ourselves as much with our coverages."

Added Dwyane Wade: "He's Kevin Garnett, one of the best players that's played this game for many, many years. So he puts a lot of pressure on you obviously offensively with his ability to be able to shoot from the outside just as good as any other big in the game."

And the challenge of limiting him will indeed be spread throughout the Heat roster, James included.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

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Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

All the free-agent focus on the Celtics has been on players -- Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard -- who they might bring in. But they have players they might lose, too.

One, of course, is Evan Turner, who's an unrestricted free agent, free to sign to anyone after July 1. But they also have two others, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who could have joined Turner on the completely open market if they didn't tender them qualifying offers.

Yesterday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, they did just that:

Zeller and Sullinger are still free to solicit offers. But, because they made the qualifying offers, the Celtics have the right to match any deal the two might receive and keep them in Boston.

OFFSEASON

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

BOSTON -- In some circles the pursuit of Dwight Howard by the Boston Celtics is just as perplexing as Boston being one of the six teams getting an audience with Kevin Durant and, with that, a shot at the Durant sweepstakes this summer. 
 
Both serve as examples of how the Celts are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to being a potential destination for the best free agents. 
 
Of course it’s about sealing the deal, and getting the best free agents on the market under contract, and all that good stuff.
 
But before that can happen, Boston has to be seen as a place to even be seriously considered by free agents. That's exactly what we’re starting to see happen right now.
 
It’s easy to point to the Celtics having a ton of salary cap space, which in itself makes them a possible landing spot for players who we all know will be hauling in max to near-max salaries this offseason.
 
But there’s just one problem with that line of thought. More than half the league enters free agency with enough money to sign one max player.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the summer’s top free agent (Durant) and have already secured a sit-down with one of the top centers (Howard) says a lot in terms of how far Boston has come in the eyes of players. 
 
And several factors point towards the Celtics getting an audience with other top-shelf free agents this summer if they fail to secure one or two of their top choices.
 
But let’s not kid ourselves. How others view this franchise is the reality of what the Celtics have to deal with when it comes to adding elite, upper-echelon talent like Durant. 
 
The fact that Durant is willing to include Boston in his short-list of teams is a bit of a head-scratcher when you see that the Celtics are the farthest away from the group in terms of competing for an NBA title (although an argument can be made that they are neck-and-neck with the Miami Heat along those lines). Durant has said in the past that would be something he would be looking for in whatever team he signed with.
 
The biggest selling point the Celtics have to offer Durant or any other free agent (besides money) is that they are a franchise on the rise, they have stability on the floor with Brad Stevens as the head coach, and they have stability in the front office with Danny Ainge. Both Stevens and Ainge signed long-term extensions earlier this month. 
 
And one of the perks that players who come to Boston quickly discover is the fan base, which is about as rabid a group as you'll find in the NBA.
 
There’s no mistaking they wear their emotions on their sleeves, whether it’s cheering the team on following a season-ending playoff loss, or booing the owner after the team makes a draft pick they don’t particularly care for. 
 
They bleed green!
 
Add all those things up and it’s clear that Boston has the kind of environment, the kind of culture, where a star can come and thrive. 
 
The Celtics and their fans have known this for a while.
 
Now it seems some of the game’s best players are starting to catch on, as well.

OFFSEASON

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Mike Felger, Dan Shaughnessy and Glenn Ordway wonder why the Celtics are even getting a meeting with Kevin Durant when free agency begins. Does it mean they have a legitimate chance of signing him?