OFFSEASON

Smith's call to play against Celtics

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Smith's call to play against Celtics

Apparently the decision as to whether Atlanta's Josh Smith (left knee) will play in Friday's Game 3 matchup against the Boston Celtics is one man's decision -- Josh Smith.
Hawks coach Larry Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision on whether Smith will play is his alone.
Its strictly going to go on his call," Drew said. "I know Josh, hes a warrior. If he feels like he can play, he wants to be out there. If he cant go we dont want him out there limping around and injuring the knee.
When told that the decision to play was his to make, Smith smiled.
"Oh, they are going to put the pressure on me like that? It's OK. If it feels good, I'm going to go. I'm not one to harness injuries. I have a high threshold for pain. If I feel like I can go a little bit I'm going to step out on floor."
While this series is filled with a number of future Hall of Famers and all-stars, Smith has distinguished himself as arguably the best player in the series.
In the two games, he has averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds in addition to 4.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots per game.
Even before the series began, a number of Boston players -- among them, Paul Pierce -- spoke glowingly about Smith's play.
"He is a lot of work," Pierce said. "He's an all-star in my mind. He's playing as good as anybody in the NBA at this point."
"Those guys are Hall of Fame players," Smith said in a recent interview with CSNNE.com. "To hear that come out of their mouths, it really gives me motivation and drive to become an all-star one day."
But first things first.
He has to get back on the floor in this series, something that may happen as early as Friday.
And with injuries that will keep Al Horford (pectoral surgery) and Zaza Pachulia (foot), the Hawks need as many abled-bodies in the frontcourt as possible.
Still, you won't find Smith rushing to get back on the floor if he's not healthy enough to play meaningful minutes.
"I don't want to put that much pressure on me," Smith told the AJC. "I understand how important this series is, but it's more than one game. I don't want to go out there too early and risk getting injured more."

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

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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.