Bonnies' Nicholson a possible C's target

773112.jpg

Bonnies' Nicholson a possible C's target

BOSTON While all eyes are focused on the Boston Celtics and their quest to move past Philadelphia Saturday night and on to the Eastern Conference finals, the C's are quietly going about looking towards the future by bringing in potential targets for next month's NBA draft.

The Celtics had a handful of players in town on Friday, a group that included St. Bonaventure star Andrew Nicholson.

Nicholson, who is 6-foot-9 with a 7-4 wingspan, told CSNNE.com that the workout in Boston "went well," and added that it was the first of many he would have between now and next month's draft.

"I've got 13 more (workouts) lined up," said Nicholson, who said he plans to be in Oklahoma City on Saturday for a workout.

Several draft boards project the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and honorable mention All-America as a late first-round pick, which would put him squarely in the cross hairs of the Celtics as a possible first-round selection.

Boston currently has their own pick at No. 21, and the next pick at No. 22 pick as part of last year's Kendrick Perkins trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In addition to Nicholson, other big men participating in the Celtics workout included Kevin Jones of West Virginia, Mike Scott of Virginia, Michigan State All-America Draymond Green and Detroit Mercy forward Eli Coleman, who has already had workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Jersey Nets.

While the needs of the Celtics may be many this offseason, there's little doubt that the C's will target size and versatility in this year's draft.

Boston has five players under contract for the 2012-2013 season, a total that does not include center Greg Stiemsma who is expected to get a qualifying offer of 1.05 million, and in all likelihood sign a multi-year deal with the C's.

Among the five players under contract is Brandon Bass, although he may opt-out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. While Bass has said that no decision has been made, multiple league sources anticipate he will test the free agent waters in search of a multi-year deal on par with the four-year, 26 million deal that his childhood friend Glen Davis agreed to with Orlando as part of the sign-and-trade that sent Bass to Boston and Davis to the Magic prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Bass signed a four-year, 16 million contract in July of 2009 that will pay him 4.25 million next season if he chooses to not opt-out and become a free agent.

Regardless, the need for size is definitely there for the Celtics who were among the NBA's worst rebounding teams. Only the woeful Charlotte Bobcats were a worst rebounding team than the C's and their 39.1 rebounds per game average.

As a senior, Nicholson averaged 18.5 points per game, along with 8.4 rebounds and two blocked shots per game. In his four seasons with the Bonnies, he never shot worst than 56 percent from the field. And knowing how the Celtics love to use pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops to free up their big men, Nicholson could be a major asset with his perimeter shooting skills. As a senior, he shot a career-best 43.4 percent from 3-point range.

Of course Boston will look into adding big men via free agency and possibly by way of a trade. But with this considered one of the more deeper drafts in recent years, adding a big man like Nicholson late in the first round might prove too tempting for the C's to pass on.

Opportunity knocked in Game 3, and Celtics answered

Opportunity knocked in Game 3, and Celtics answered

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart sat at his locker stall late Sunday night, soaking in the moment for all it was worth. 

The Celtics were just minutes removed from one of the biggest playoff upsets ever, knocking off Cleveland, 111-108, a game in which Boston was a 16.5-point underdog.
 
Smart’s play had a lot to do with the win as he scored a career-high 27 points, which included a career-best seven made 3-pointers.
 
But this win was about more than Smart having the game of his life.
 
It was about opportunity, an unspoken rallying cry that has galvanized this Celtics team through what has been a season in which they defied the odds and naysayers time and time again.
 
Boston was supposed to be pretty good this season, but no one predicted the C's would finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
 
Isaiah Thomas had a breakout year in 2015-16, but few anticipated he would be even better while putting up numbers that rank among the greatest single seasons in the storied franchise’s illustrious history.
 
Then Thomas goes down with a right hip injury that will keep him out of the remainder of the playoffs, and the Celtics hit the road while trailing the defending champion Cavaliers 2-0. 
 
So what do they do? Oh, not much. 

They just come up with the most epic playoff comeback win ever against a LeBron James-led team.
 
You can dissect what happened Sunday night all you want, but in the end, it came down to one thing: Opportunity.
 
Which is why Boston’s Game 3 win was so sweet. And for those of us who have followed the ups and downs of this team this season recognized it was another example of the Celtics making the most of their opportunity to shock the world.
 
Look no further than Smart, a gritty physical defender whose shot-making isn’t exactly top-10 worthy.
 
No, I’m not talking about top 10 in the NBA. I’m talking top 10 on his team.
 
And yet there he was, delivering his usual strong play defensively while channeling his inner Isaiah Thomas to get big-time buckets in the second half, which included 11 points during a 26-10 run to close out the third and bring Boston within 87-82 going into the fourth.
 
With the surge came more opportunities for other Celtics like Kelly Olynyk, who gets the superstar treatment in Cleveland with more boos than any other Boston player. (They have not forgotten about that Olynyk-Kevin Love incident a couple years ago, apparently.)
 
Olynyk soaked in the boos while coming off the bench to splash the Cavs defense for 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
 
“Keep fighting, keep fighting,” Olynyk told me when I asked him about what Game 3’s win says about this team. “You can knock us down but we’ll keep getting back up. That’s what we did out there.”
 
Opportunity.
  
The Celtics had their moment on Sunday night, reminding us just how tough-minded a bunch they can be when they are boxed in a corner and left with two choices: Fight or face inevitable elimination.
 
Because had they lost Game 3, they would have been down 3-0 in the series. And no one needs reminding that no NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 playoff deficit.
 
Fortunately for them, that’s no longer an option.
 
Instead, they have a chance to even this series up and regain home court advantage if they can win Game 4, which, much like Game 3, seems a long shot.
 
They don’t care.
 
It has never been about being the favorite or underdog. It’s about the opportunity, something the Celtics gave themselves with Sunday’s win.