Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?


Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?

Were a few days into NBA free agency, and all things considered, the Celtics are sitting pretty.

They signed Kevin Garnett. Theyre on the verge of signing Jeff Green. Throw in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley, and short of Danny Ainge acquiring Mad Cow Disease, trading Bradley for Jimmer Fredette and using the entire mid-level on Robert Swift the Celtics are on track to kick off next season with a team thats better than the one that came within a game of the NBA Finals.

Yes, it's good to be a Celtics fan. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, theres one major issue to be addressed: Back-up shooting guard.

A guy who can lead the second unit, mesh with the starters and most importantly: SCORE THE BALL. A guy who can ideally assume the role of a Vinnie Johnson, Manu Ginobili or James Harden (Note: Be on the look-out for any bearded Argentinians nicknamed after an appliance). Who can take Boston to that next level in terms of depth and offensive firepower.

The good news there are plenty of options: Ray Allen. OJ Mayo (whom I refer to as Jerod Mayo at least three times a day. Just a warning in preparation for the time it actually makes it to print). Jamal Crawford. Jason Terry. The Celtics have reportedly reached out to all four.

The bad news none of them are particularly jazzed about Boston.

You know the story with Ray: The Celtics offered him twice the money, but he'll still spend Thursday night toasting with Bron, Wade, Spoelstra and Riles down in South Beach. Crawford would rather take the mid-level from the Clippers (where he can start). Terry looks poised to let the Mavericks match any offer and Mayo straight up doesn't want to play for the C's at least according to reports.

Sure, the chips will eventually fall into place and (hopefully) one of these four guys will find a home in Boston, but the fact remains that no one's tripping over themselves to get here. That each player has an opportunity to become one of the final pieces on a potential contender; to play in front of one of the most passionate fan bases in the country; to play under all the banners and for one of the most respected, player-friendly coaches in the league. Yet it's still a tough sell.

And once again, we're left to wonder: Why don't free agents want to play for the Celtics?

We can throw Ray Allen out of the conversation, because that's a special situation, but honestly: Why wouldn't Jamal Crawford or OJ Mayo jump at the chance to join this crew? Why did Chris Paul reportedly refuse to sign an extension in Boston? Why, despite all the Dwight Howard rumors of the past two years, were the Celtics never considered a legit destination for the game's biggest center? (Related story: I ran into Jameer Nelson at a bar in Boston last summer while he was in town shooting stuff for Reebok. At one point, I asked him: "Hey, so what are the chances Dwight ends up here?" He literally laughed in my face, before saying: "Nah, no way he's coming here.")

You can talk about the weather, but Boston's not much colder than Brooklyn or Manhattan. You can say it's a race thing, but the way Kevin Garnett has embraced and loves this city should be enough to help curb that reputation. You can't use the "Celtics are old and past their prime" excuse anymore because, like I said, they're over that, they've adjusted. For the next two seasons, short of devastating injury, the Celtics will be right up there with any team outside of Miami and OKC. They're contenders.

So, then what's the problem with Boston?

Here's one theory:

It's not that these free agents hate the city. Or the weather. Or the team's championship potential. Nope.

They hate the Celtics.

Players in today's NBA hate the Boston Celtics.

Of course, this isn't exactly breaking news. Over the last five years, the Celtics have antagonized just about every team in the league. There's barely a young superstar who Boston hasn't somehow offended. In many ways, it's been one of the Celtics best weapons their ability to get under an opponent's skin. But after a half decade of chaos, the result is a league that isn't too found of green. An entire generation of NBA players who have grown to hate the C's.

And don't you think it's possible that this has trickled into free agency?

Is it really a coincidence that since 2007, the Celtics four biggest free agent signings James Posey, Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq were all older players from another generation, who befriended the Big 3 before they were the Big 3? I don't think so.

What's funny is that it seems to be a perception problem more than anything. After all, the guys who are traded here love it: Jeff Green was traded here and he wants to stay. Brandon Bass was traded here and he wants to stay. Keyon Dooling was traded here, and from the sound of things, it changed his life. When the guys are forced to join the dark side, they always realize that it's not so dark.

But when given the choice, free agents continue to shy away from the Boston Celtics.

Hopefully we won't have to wait another generation before that starts to change.

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

Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage


Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

Click here for the gallery. 

BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
5. Al Horford's leadership established
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.