OFFSEASON

Pietrus breaks slump in big way; Shaq to thank?

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Pietrus breaks slump in big way; Shaq to thank?

MIAMI Shaquille O'Neal is no longer a member of the Boston Celtics, but he may have delivered an assist that could catapult the C's back into the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

Boston's 94-90 Game 5 win over Miami was fueled in part by Mickael Pietrus' 13 points off the C's bench - that more than doubled his points total (six) in the first four games of this series.

Pietrus said a text message from O'Neal (now an NBA analyst for TNT) was one of the keys to his breakout performance.

"You know (Monday) I got a text from Shaq telling me keep believing and keep playing," Pietrus said. "So that's what I did."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has maintained for weeks that any scoring from Pietrus would be "gravy" just as long as he continued to provide solid play defensively against the Heat and their perimeter players such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

But at some point, you had to figure on Pietrus getting into some kind of rhythm offensively.

Tuesday was that night, as Pietrus connected on 5-of-8 shots which included a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter, each coming at a time when the C's were in dire need of a basket.

His first 3-pointer cut Miami's lead in half, to 78-75.

That play came moments after a spectacular block by Dwyane Wade of a Brandon Bass dunk attempt.

Rajon Rondo, who had 13 assists, wisely tapped the loose ball out to a wide open Pietrus for the 3-pointer.

"When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take the shot and make it," Pietrus said. "So that's what I did."

And his second 3-pointer came about after a mad scramble. It put the Celtics ahead 85-83, with 2:11 to play.

Boston would not trail again for the rest of the night.

It was indeed a night of redemption for Pietrus, who came into the game having missed eight of his nine shots from the field in this series.

Despite his struggles shooting the ball, Rivers never hesitated to put him on the floor.

In fact, the deeper the C's got in the playoffs, the more confident Rivers became that Pietrus would find his shooting stroke and revert back to the big-shot maker that, when with Orlando in 2009, was pivotal in ending the Celtics' season.

"He's been down this road before," Rivers said. "He played with Orlando, made big shots, had big defensive stops, was very comfortable."

Pietrus hopes to continue delivering in a similar fashion in Thursday night's series-clinching game.

If he does, there will be plenty of folks Pietrus will surely thank - Shaquille O'Neal among them.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics secure meeting with Dwight Howard

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Report: Celtics secure meeting with Dwight Howard

In February, the Boston Celtics were involved in trade deadline talks with the Houston Rockets involving center Dwight Howard.

It appears the team still has interest in the free-agent big man. 

According to ESPN, the Celtics have secured a meeting with Howard after July 1.

Howard, 30, became a free agent after declining a player option that would have paid him more the $23 million in 2016-17 

OFFSEASON

Future uncertain for Johnson and Jerebko as Celtics pursue Durant

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Future uncertain for Johnson and Jerebko as Celtics pursue Durant

BOSTON -- When you’re the Boston Celtics and you have your sights set on a star like Kevin Durant, the potential impact on your roster is undeniable.

That’s a good thing, right?

Well . . . not exactly.

One of the options that the Celtics are considering during the free agency period is whether to waive Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko before July 3 which would create additional salary cap space to potentially sign Durant and another near max-salaried player.

But here’s the problem.

Boston could potentially waive Johnson and Jerebko, fail to get Durant or another elite free agent and see the duo gone for nothing in return while they play their way into a big contract toiling in the NBA’s basement with one of the league’s worst teams.

How you ask?

Multiple league sources contacted by CSNNE.com Tuesday night indicated that if the Celtics waive both players, it’s “very likely” that both will be claimed off waivers.

According to a league office official, waiver priority goes to the team with the worst record attempting to claim a player.

And what team had the worst record in the NBA last season?

Yup. The 10-win Philadelphia 76ers.

And what team was right behind them, or ahead depending on how you look at things?

The lowly, 17-win Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson is due $12 million next season while Jerebko is due to earn $5 million, chump change in this new age of the NBA with the 2016-2017 salary cap expected to be around $94 million.

In addition, both players would join clubs in contract years. Couple that with each being relatively productive and there’s the potential for each player to have a really big season.

Johnson was the Celtics’ top rim-protector last season, in addition to being a solid pick-and-roll defender. He also averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds with 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game. 

And Jerebko shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range last season, and finished up the playoffs in the starting lineup.

The Celtics are well aware of how valuable both players were to Boston’s success last season, and how their production relative to their contracts makes them extremely important to whatever team they play for.

To lose them for what would essentially be a lottery ticket in the Durant sweepstakes, is certainly a gamble that it remains to be seen if the Celtics are willing to take.

Best-case scenario for Boston is to know where they stand with Durant within the first 24 hours of free agency which would then allow them time to make a more informed decision about Johnson and Jerebko’s futures.

As you can imagine, the Celtics are as eager as any team to know what Durant plans to do this summer.

Because the way things are starting to take shape with Boston’s pursuit of the former league MVP, he’s going to have an impact on the Celtics’ roster one way or another.