OFFSEASON

Split second thoughts on Boston's big win

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Split second thoughts on Boston's big win

Three seconds.

How many different thoughts and emotions can your brain squeeze into three measly seconds?

Im not sure theres one definitive answer, except that its always more than you think. Whether its the seconds after your car skids out of control in a snowstorm. After you briefly stumble on your way down a massive flight of stairs. Or after one of the top five basketball players in the world breaks loose for an open, game-winning, essentially-season-ending three-pointer.

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Your brains ability to cram so much into such a short, almost non-existent period of time is (not to get too Bill Walton on you ) one of the true marvels of the human condition. One of those things that we dont fully understand, but generally whether its to avoid further confusion or the fear of waking up in our own Charlie Kaufman movie don't question. But we know that its there. We know that in those moments of trepidation our mind can and will morph into a flip book of reflection and horror.

Then, just as quickly, its over.

Your car grinds safely to a halt. You barely catch yourself on the railing. Dwyane Wades three-pointer bounces off the rim and falls harmlessly to the ground next to Marquis Daniels jaw. Everythings back to normal, but you never forget how it felt. How quickly everything meant nothing. It gives you a new appreciation for what you have, and leaves you in a considerable state of shock.

Thats where we are this morning.

For three seconds last night, the Celtics were dead. From the moment Wade crossed up Rondo, pump faked Daniels and rose up for an uncontested (although off-balanced) game-winning three, all your worst fears about this team became a reality. In those three seconds, you saw the Heat celebrating on the parquet, you watched the excruciating press conferences, lived through the media firestorm, the two days of eulogies and the eventual public beheading in Miami.

You saw Wade's shot go in. You felt the Celtics lose.

The end of a truly great season. The end of a historic era.

BUT thanks to one or one thousand slight miscalculations in Wades release, the Celtics are now stronger than ever. Whether thats real or just the perception doesnt matter. For the next two days, that's how we'll look at this team. The same crew that would have been dead and buried if not for one missed jumper is now a serious threat to upset the Heat and make it back the Finals for the third time in five long, confusing and undeniably satisfying seasons.

At this point, we understand what they'll have to do to win. We're familiar with every possible reason they might lose. After an entire postseason of staring aimlessly into the Green enigma, we finally have a read on these guys. We know who they are. We know who they're up against.

Deep down, we know where this is headed.

Obviously, nothing is certain in this life andor postseason. There's so much basketball and drama waiting to play out over these next four days and two games. But come on, you know as well as I do:

The Celtics are going to lose tomorrow.

They're going to win on Thursday.

Or they'll win tomorrow. And lose on Thursday.

Bottom line: If you've got plans for Saturday night, you might as well start coming up with excuses. Start teaching your kid how to fake a cough. Start looking for another night to meet your girlfriend's parents. Tell your cousin that you saw his fiancee with another guy, that this weekend's wedding is a mistake. Park your car in a handicap spot. Have the thing impounded. Do whatever you can to ensure that on Saturday night at 8:30 pm, there's nothing in the way of you and your TV. Because this thing's coming down to the wire. There's no other way for it this series, this season, this rivalry, this era to end.

It wasn't ending with a Heat sweep. It wasn't ending with Marquis Daniels biting on a last second pump fake. It's not ending on a Tuesday night in Miami.

It will come down to Saturday. It has to. This entire postseason has been about fate and circumstance. About building towards something that we could never really understand. Something special. And there could be nothing (in our world) more special than CelticsHeat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. If they get there, it will all make sense.

If the Celtics win?

I'm not touching that yet.

If they lose? Well, you know how it's going to feel.

For three seconds, you were already there.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

OFFSEASON

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

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Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

LOS ANGELES - Just two games into the U.S. basketball team's pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout exhibition victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory over an overmatched opponent was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

"We should have won, but the way we won was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "We're really growing together as a group."

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the U.S. team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team's work in their brief practice time together.

And while they're still learning their teammates' tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the U.S. team looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, which has no current NBA players.

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China's first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans' first possession.

"We've only been together a week, but it seems like we've been teammates for years," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 percent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the American team will excel at defensive switching because of its abundance of versatile players.

"I think we're learning more about one another, and our defense was there pretty much the whole game," Krzyzewski said.

The Americans haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the roster in 1992, going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation's top stars.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before, but now we're all coming together at the right time."

Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans' starting lineup from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medalists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pregame introductions. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 halftime lead.

The Chinese team's most recognizable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 center drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.

They'll also meet Aug. 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.

OFFSEASON

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

You’re probably thinking the summer fireworks are finished after the Celtics brought back Tyler Zeller, added ex-Celtic Gerald Green, and signed rookies Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil. It’s true, these moves do lower the likelihood of a multifaceted trade, but it doesn’t totally extinguish the odds of something seismic happening.

The Celtics still retain their flexibility, since none of these deals have actually been finalized. Even after they are, they’d still have the pieces required to make a deal work for a superstar like Blake Griffin. It’s not hard to make a valid trade for one player, but it is difficult if it’s a multi-step process like a Russell Westbrook renegotiate-and-extend trade.

“This is not necessarily what the team will be,” a source told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s probably changes coming.”

Well, yeah. Changes have to come. The Celtics don’t really have a choice here.

Assuming Jaylen Brown is signed, they’ll have 18 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts. So at least three players will have to be exported before the season, since the NBA requires a maximum of 15 players on a roster.

Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current projected depth chart:

  STARTERS BENCH RESERVES ON THE BUBBLE
FRONT COURT Amir Johnson Kelly Olynyk Tyler Zeller  
Al Horford Jonas Jerebko Jordan Mickey Ben Bentil*
Jae Crowder Jaylen Brown* Gerald Green James Young
BACK COURT Avery Bradley Marcus Smart RJ Hunter John Holland*
Isaiah Thomas Terry Rozier Demetrius Jackson  

So, something has to happen. It’s just a matter of what. You can choose to believe the Celtics aren’t actually trying to make a blockbuster move. Or you can choose to believe the signals that have been firing off this month from the Celtics themselves indicating they’re “not done.”

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Celtics to get closer to 15 players by completing a blockbuster trade for a player like Griffin.
 
Perhaps some combination of veterans (Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, and Jonas Jerebko) with youth (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young) and draft picks (2018 Nets pick) could bring in Griffin and Paul Pierce.

Saturday’s moves make sense regardless of any transactions to follow.

Zeller is a bargain at just $8 million as a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. But, if Johnson were dealt, he’d be able to slide right up the depth chart as the team’s backup center.

Green shot 37.2 percent on spot up threes, per SportVU, over the past three years, so he provides spacing as a scorer who can catch fire. Considering Brad Stevens’ track record of sapping every ounce of talent out of each of his players -- hello, Jordan Crawford! -- it’s possible the Celtics will be getting the Green who scored an efficient 15.8 points per game just two years ago in Phoenix, and not the subpar Green who struggled to stay on the court last year in Miami.

If one or two of Boston’s young wings were dealt, Green, on a mere veteran minimum contract, would have an even easier path to playing time as a spark off the bench.

It’s difficult to read into the signings of second-round picks Jackson and Bentil, but either way the should both spend the season developing with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

The Celtics haven’t made a move yet, but they also haven’t done anything to suggest they’re entirely done. These moves could be precursors to something significant, or not. But at the least they provide depth to an already impressive roster.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

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Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

On a busy Saturday for the Celtics, they have brought back center Tyler Zeller and agreed to deals with draft picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier Saturday, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Celtics will sign guard Gerald Green. 

Himmelsbach reports that Zeller's is a $16 million, two-year deal with the second-year not guaranteed. Jackson, the point guard from Notre Dame who was the 45th overall selection in the draft, has a guaranteed deal and Bentil, the forward from Providence who was the 51st player drafted, has a partially guaranteed deal. 

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported that the second-year of Zeller's deal is a team option and that Green agreed to a one-year deal at the $1.4 million veteran mininum based on his nine years of NBA service.

The 7-foot Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game last season. 

R.J. Hunter, James Young, Bentil and John Holland are in position to fight for the final roster spot, Himmelsbach reports, pending more deals, which the Celtics are reportedly working on. A source told Himmelsbach, that while there are probably changes coming, "There is no big deal right now." 

Bulpett reported that Celtics' talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving a deal for Sixers' big man Jahlil Okafor have, according to sources, grown "stale" and that the moves Saturday put 2014 draft pick James Young's roster spot in jeopardy.

With Green, Zeller, and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have has 15 guaranteed contracts and three partial or non-guaranteed deals.