Celtics win, but -- again -- lose Shaq

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Celtics win, but -- again -- lose Shaq

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Prior to Boston's 101-90 win over Detroit on Sunday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers opted to play Shaquille O'Neal with the goal being to limit his minutes.

But this is not what he had in mind.

O'Neal returned to action and looked good in his six minutes on the floor, only to suffer yet another injury (right calf strain) that will sideline him indefinitely.

So even as Paul Pierce (22 points) and Kevin Garnett (23 points, 8 rebounds) looked good in Sunday's win, all the talk afterward was about the big fella who won't be playing big minutes - or any minutes, most likely - any time soon.

O'Neal was running up the court early in the second quarter. He began limping. O'Neal eventually hobbled over towards the Celtics bench and needed some help getting back to the locker room.

Team trainer Ed Lacerte helped him off the floor. They were soon joined by other members of the Celtics medical staff in the tunnel area near the Celtics bench.

There was great concern at first that O'Neal, who was out with a right Achilles tendon injury, had re-aggravated his sore Achilles tendon or even worst, ruptured it.

But all indications by the C's are that the right calf injury suffered by O'Neal isn't that serious.

"It's not a bad strain, but it's a strain," Rivers said. "Similar to the one Von Wafe had, but not even close to the severity."

Wafer missed 13 games because of the injury.

When asked how long would O'Neal be out, Rivers responded, "I don't know, is the answer. I don't think very long, honestly. That's what the team's medical staff thought, that it's very minor. It scared him more than anything. I'm sure with the calf, he thought Achilles right away. but we'll see."

Jermaine O'Neal, who has had his share of injuries this season, believes Shaq will be back quickly.

"I think he may be out here on Tuesday against the Sixers, but we'll see," said O'Neal. "He was laughing and joking; I think it was more of a scare for the guys on the team and the fans of the Celtics."

Even before the injury, Rivers indicated Shaquille O'Neal would miss some games between now and the start of the playoffs.

Now, the C's have no choice.

But his injury complicates Rivers' plan.

The coach wants to make sure O'Neal doesn't overdue it between now and the playoffs, but he understands the C's really need Shaq on the floor if for no other reason than to develop better chemistry for both the starters and second unit.

The Celtics did get a bit of good news on Sunday, with Nenad Krstic potentially back in the lineup as early as Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. He suffered a bone bruise in his right knee against San Antonio on Thursday.

Boston is now starting Jermaine O'Neal at center.

And like most of Boston's centers, he's had his share of injuries this season as well.

In fact, Sunday was just his 20th game of the season after missing most of the year following surgery to his left knee.

Against the Pistons, Jermaine O'Neal played 17 minutes while scoring five points to go with six rebounds.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter what Mother Nature is doing weather-wise, Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley has been around the NBA long enough to know that the potential to be traded is always in season.

This summer has been no different, with Bradley being among the Boston players whose name has been included in several rumored trades.

“I try not to worry about it too much because it’s out of my control at the end of the day,” Bradley said after his basketball camp at Brandeis University with additional camps in Trinadad having been completed with additional ones this summer in Tacoma, Washington and Vancouver.

Bradley is entering the final year of the 4-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2014.

And make no mistake about it.

Bradley is going to get paid a lot, whether it’s by the Celtics or another team.

His steady improvement from one year to the next has been a constant for the 26-year-old who last season was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive first team.

But he knows the Celtics’ brass well enough that if they see a chance to significantly upgrade the roster, they won’t hesitate to trade anyone, himself included.

“I don’t worry about it,” Bradley said. “I know that was the case and I get traded, the Celtics are going to do what’s best for them and I’m going to have to do what’s best for me if I’m put in a different situation.

He added, “our job is to play basketball, not worry about trades. I just try to focus on that.”

Having been in the NBA for seven years, Bradley acknowledged it does get easier to put the trade speculation in perspective over time.

“It’s part of the business, man,” he said. “You just to accept and understand that your name is going to be thrown in trade talk. You can get traded at any time. You just have to be prepared and focus on just being the best player that you can be.”

That approach has been critical to Bradley’s steady improvement as an NBA player who began his career as someone who was charged with playing elite defense, into one of the better two-way talents in the league.

Last season, Bradley averaged a career-high 16.3 points per game along with 6.1 rebounds which was also a career-high.

This season, Bradley has a long list of areas he wants to improve upon, with finishing at the rim near the top of the list.

Looking at his track record, you can count on that area of his game showing noticeable improvement.

And whether it’ll manifest itself while he’s a Celtic, remains to be seen.

“It doesn’t matter if you get traded or where you end up,” Bradley said. “If you’re prepared to be in any situation you’ll be fine.”

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

BOSTON -- The plan for the Boston Celtics to upgrade their roster began with draft night. 

They had the top overall pick and traded down with Philadelphia for the No. 3 spot, where they selected Jayson Tatum in addition to getting a future first-round pick.

Now on to phase two: Free agency.

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A year ago this time, the Boston Celtics went into free agency feeling pretty good about their chances of landing at least one high-impact difference maker.

Years of meticulous salary cap management had Boston in position to add a pair of max-salaried players in one haul, something you seldom see happen in the NBA.

Boston secured Al Horford,  who was widely viewed as the second-best free agent available, with a four-year, $113 million contract.

The Celtics were on the short list of contenders for the top free agent, Kevin Durant, who eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors and led them to an NBA title earlier this month, the franchise's second championship in the last three years. 

Free agency officially begins on Saturday and Boston once again finds itself on the short list of teams for one of the better free agents-to-be: Utah's Gordon Hayward.

“Target number one for Boston,” one league executive texted to CSNNE.com on Friday when asked about Hayward. "I'm not telling you something you and the rest of the NBA world [haven't] known for a while; he's the guy in this free agent class that they really, really want.”

While a number of teams may enter the race for Hayward, he is expected to choose from one of these three: Utah, Boston and Miami.

As good as a Hayward signing may be for Boston, he’s not the biggest name on the free-agent market.

That would be Durant and Stephen Curry, both of whom are expected to re-sign with the Warriors. The likelihood of either winding up on another team can be summed up in two words – no chance.

And that leaves Hayward as arguably the best free agent available to be on another team’s roster next season.

But in terms of addressing specific needs, the Celtics are among the teams that can benefit from what is shaping up to be a position-less NBA, one where your best scorers in the paint are guards and your best passers play in the frontcourt.

For a good chunk of last season, the 6-foot-10 Horford was Boston’s top assist man, while 6-2 guard Avery Bradley was the Celtics’ top rebounder.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, hears all the time about how the Celtics need to become a better rebounding team.

Despite finishing with more wins than any team in the Eastern Conference, Boston was among the worst rebounding teams in several categories. Their defensive rebounding percentage of .485 ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams.

Boston was the only team to win 50 or more games last season that was not ranked among the top 20 teams in rebounding percentage.

And while the knee-jerk response would be to go out and sign big men whose strength is rebounding the ball, Ainge is convinced that rebounding for the Celtics has to be across-the-board team effort.

“You have to have other guys that rebound,” Ainge said during an interview with CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “Those teams with small lineups, you still have to find a way to rebound. Obviously, we were a very good team this year and small at a lot of positions and it seemed our big guys took the brunt of not being good rebounders. It really is a team rebounding game. This was the case even when I played with the Big 3. We know that’s a weakness. We need to add size and length to our roster.”

That’s why in many ways, Tatum was such a solid addition for Boston in last week’s NBA draft.

While he is given a lot of praise for his offensive versatility, Ainge also liked the fact that the 19-year-old was a really good rebounder particularly on the defensive glass.

For Boston, become a better team on the defensive boards would go far in them improving their rebounding as a whole and in doing so, show growth for a team whose defensive rating (105.5) ranked 12th in the NBA after beginning the season defensively as one of the NBA’s worst teams.

“Rebounding and size goes to all the positions. Rebounding is a five-man effort. We just added size,” said Ainge, referring to Tatum. “That’s huge; he’s a terrific defensive rebounder.”

Boston should also benefit from a pair of first-round draft picks from last season, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, who spent this past season playing overseas but are expected to join the Celtics roster for the 2017-2018 season.

“We have some guys that can help us improve in that area,” Ainge said.

And improvement, more than anything else, is the name of the game for the Celtics in free agency.

Well aware that no one single move will move them past Cleveland or Golden State, Ainge knows progress for his team may not be as instantaneous as some fans – or he for that matter – would like.

“We have a lot of really good players. A lot of gritty guys,” Ainge said. “But we could use like a little more talent; that’s the bottom line. The guy that can get his own shot, create for others, demands double teams on a regular basis. Maybe some of our young guys can develop into that. But that’s a ways away."

Ainge added, “But to me, a true contender, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in the NBA Finals.  They’re arguably the two best half-court guys. They’re there with [Russell] Westbrook and James Harden, of course, are great offensive players. But you have to have more than just them. We feel we have the [other guys].  We just need a guy like that [to] give us a chance.”