OFFSEASON

Sixers show interest in Celtics assistant GM Zarren

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Sixers show interest in Celtics assistant GM Zarren

When you've had the kind of run the past five years that the Celtics have had, sooner or later other teams will come trying to court your best front-office talent.

Celtics assistant General Manager Ryan McDonough was in the running for the Orlando Magic GM job that ultimately went to Worcester native Rob Hennigan.

Now comes Philadelphia. The 76ers have interest in Mike Zarren, a Celtics assistant GM who also doubles as Team Counsel.

Ainge confirmed to CSNNE.com that the Sixers did ask for permission to speak with Zarren about the Sixers GM job.

While Ainge wasn't sure where things stood with Zarren and the Philadelphia GM job currently held by Rod Thorn, he's not surprised that his top assistants are garnering interest from other franchises.

"Ryan McDonough and Mike Zarren are both good candidates," Ainge said. "I knew both of those guys would get an opportunity someday, for sure."

While both have been important cogs in the Celtics maintaining a spot among the Eastern Conference's top teams, a potential loss of Zarren would be significant on several levels.

An attorney who graduated from the Harvard Law School, Zarren is the Celtics' resident salary cap whiz whose use of analytics has in many ways revolutionized the way the C's -- and a number of other teams for that matter -- go about scouting players and deciding on which free agents to pursue.

He is a regular speaker at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference held in Boston during the spring.

David Falk is one of the most respected agents in the NBA, with a past clients list that's filled with some of the greatest players to ever set foot in the NBA.

Among his current clients is Jeff Green, whose four-year, 36 million contract with the Celtics became official on Wednesday.

Falk said he doesn't usually work with the assistant GMs for teams, but because of the complicated nature of Green's contract along with all the difference nuances of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, he spent a good bit of time working out details for Green's new deal with Zarren.

"Mike has an interesting combination of skills," Falk told CSNNE.com. "Moneyball skills, with his use of data and analytics."

Those qualities have been instrumental in the Celtics putting together a team for this upcoming season that has to be on the short list of contenders in the East, along with NBA champion Miami Heat.

Falk has no doubts that Zarren would be "an excellent GM one day."

However, his success would depend heavily on the role that he would be allowed to play.

"In Boston, he has a lot of influence on what the Celtics do," Falk said. "I have dealt with GMs who are basically GMs in title only. This isn't just Mike, but for any assistant GM with an opportunity to make such a move who has considerable influence in their role as an assistant GM, will they have similar or more influence at another place as a GM?"

Falk added, "As I said, Mike is an excellent candidate for any GM job. He has the smarts; he's an attorney which certainly helps. And he has good people skills."

OFFSEASON

Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

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Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

BOSTON -- With more salary cap space than they've ever had along with a slew of clear and well-defined needs, the Celtics are sure to be one of the busier teams when free agency begins on Friday.

And while the Celtics’ needs may be all over the place, there is one thing that head coach Brad Stevens and the rest of the Boston Celtics have made no secret about wanting to come away with this offseason.

“The need for increased versatility,” Stevens said.

Indeed, Stevens envisions the NBA becoming more of a position-less league going forward.

When you look at the Cleveland Cavaliers rallying from a 3-1 deficit to knock off Golden State, of course LeBron James was brilliant as well as Kyrie Irving. 

But one of the more stealth keys to that series that factored into its outcome, was the way Cleveland's 6-foot-9 power forward/center Tristan Thompson was able to hold his own defensively against two-time league MVP guard, 6-3 Stephen Curry.

His play was as clear an example of the value in having players with defensive versatility as you will find.

It also has value on the offensive end of the floor as well. 

That helps explain why LSU’s Ben Simmons was selected with the top overall pick, a player with power forward size (6-10, 240) with point guard-like vision.

And in many ways it speaks to why the Celtics decided to draft Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick instead of a playmaker like Providence College’s Kris Dunn or sharpshooters like Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield or Kentucky’s Jamal Murray.

Brown stands 6-7, weighs 223 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan with elite athleticism and quickness getting to the paint. 

“Very few guys can move like Jaylen, can move at his size and at his length,” Stevens said. “So the defensive versatility is a big piece of that; that should be transferable right away.”

As for free agency, the same mantra – seek out versatile players – will remain in effect for Boston.

Of course Kevin Durant is at the top of the Celtics’ free agent wish list after Durant reportedly included Boston on the list of teams he will meet with in New York shortly after free agency begins.

In addition to the Celtics and his current team Oklahoma City, Durant is also planning to talk with officials from the following teams: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami and San Antonio.

Along with Durant, the Celtics are also expected to express interest in Atlanta’s Al Horford; New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson; and possibly Golden State’s Harrison Barnes who will be a restricted free agent which often serves as a deterrent for potential suitors. However, Barnes could wind up being an unrestricted free agent if the Warriors feel as though they will land Durant.

Regardless of which free agents wind up in Boston, you can count on versatility being one of their strengths.

“I only look at the game in four spots; ball-handlers, wings, guys that can play that three-swing spot (some power forward as well as small forward) and bigs,” Stevens said. “The more versatile, the more position-less, the better. That overall provides more opportunities than it does not. That’s a positive when you talk about guys that can do different things at different positions.”

OFFSEASON

Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

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Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three first-round picks on international players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic, who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively, next season.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here . . . is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the international top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding  . . . now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-foot-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.