Boston Celtics

NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

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NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

BOSTON – The NBA has become more of an international game as teams scour the globe in search of the next big basketball talent.

While some franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs have been poaching talented international players for years, other franchises have been more locked into adding American-born ballers.

The Boston Celtics have paid close attention to the best international players for several years.

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But more often than not, additions to their roster through the draft have come from the college ranks with an occasional international player added via free agency.

This season's team will definitely have a certain international flavor to it with overseas additions coming by way of players they drafted and signed as free agents to bolster what should be one of the deeper teams in the East.

Boston has six rookies with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season, four of which were born outside of the United States.

And of those four rookies, three of them – Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall pick); Ante Zizic (23rd overall pick) and Abdel Nader; 58th overall pick) – were selected in the 2016 draft but didn't join the team immediately. 

Yabusele who is originally from France, spent most of last season in China and came to the States and played briefly with the Celtic’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He will be among the bevy of young players competing for minutes off the Celtics bench. 

Zizic, born in Croatia, spent last season playing in his native country as well as in Turkey. The 7-foot center will come into training camp competing for playing time, possibly as Boston’s starting center.

And then there’s Nader, a G-League all-star as well as the G-League’s rookie of the year last season. The Egyptian-American wing player showed promise in each of the last two summer leagues which is in part why the Celtics signed him to a four-year, $6 million deal with only the first year fully guaranteed. 

They each have different strengths that only add value to a Boston squad that’s being built to play just about every style of play imaginable.

But the Celtics didn’t limit their pursuit of international talent to just the draft.

Boston has also signed German Forward Daniel Theis. 

Unlike the international players drafted by Boston, Theis is a bit of a mystery to most Celtics fans.

Last season he averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds for Brose Bamberg of Germany, while shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range and 59.8 percent from the field.

And that season ended with a German championship, just like the previous two seasons for the 6-9, 243-pound forward who is expected to come in and compete for playing time off the bench for a Celtics team that’s looking for 

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

CANTON, Mass. – There is no way around it.

When conversations shift towards the best teams in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are one of the first teams talked about.

With that elevated status comes increased expectations, the kind that will kick into full gear when the team begins practice.

But within those expectations is the reality that despite the increased talent pool Brad Stevens will have to work with this season, there will still be an adjustment period.

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Increased expectations and maintaining a sense of urgency while being patient with the team gelling, will be among the biggest challenges awaiting Boston this season.

But head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe it will be an issue his team will contend with this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed so there’s no balance,” Stevens said. “You do what you do, work every day to try to be the best you can be. We know what goal is in Boston; that’s stated pretty clearly with the banners that hang above us. Ultimately that has nothing to do with how good we become tomorrow and the next day. We just focus on the process.”

And that process begins in earnest on Tuesday with the first day of training camp.

“We’re looking forward to getting to work as a full team,” Stevens said.

Despite having a team with 10 new players, the expectations have not been any higher than they are now for Stevens who is entering his fifth season as Boston’s head coach.

He has a roster that includes a trio of All-Stars in Al Horford (4), Gordon Hayward (1) and Kyrie Irving (4), with a combined nine All-Star appearances among them.

Boston also has a talented but youthful roster outside of their Big Three that includes second-year wing Jaylen Brown and first-round pick Jayson Tatum not to mention returners Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier who will both be competing for prominent roles in the Celtics’ rotation this season.

The additions made by Boston should help balance out an offense that will continue to look for ways to score.

“We have a lot of new pieces,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But I feel like we’re moving in the right direction as a team.”

Part of that progress involves not only getting the new guys up to speed, but also internal growth from among the handful of players back from last season’s squad.

The most talked about returnee on Monday was Marcus Smart, who comes into training camp having lost nearly 20 pounds.

Smart said he weighed 223 points after having weighed himself earlier on Monday, which is down from his playing weight of last season which hovered around the 240-pound mark.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said the organization talked to Smart about the need for him to lose weight this summer.

Smart agreed.

The added weight began to bother him during the playoffs, leading to increased back pain and sleepless nights.

“I remember times putting on my shirt and tucking my stomach in because I didn’t like how it looked,” Smart said. “And that pain was causing me, I was always tired, I wasn’t as explosive and I was exerting so much energy to go out there every day and do the things I been doing my whole life. I wasn’t too fond of that. I knew I had to change.”

And when it comes to the Celtics heading into this season, change is indeed an appropriate description for this team.

But for newcomer Kyrie Irving, dealing with change is nothing new.

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland three years ago, it was expected to usher in a wave of victories from the outset.

Instead, the Cavs opened the season with a 5-6 start before getting on track and advancing to the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

“It definitely, definitely attributes to figuring out how patient you are at that moment,” Irving said when I asked him about that slow start in Cleveland. That takes a while. You have to be very patient in your approach. I speak on that pretty often. So it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in one day or after one game. It’s going to come in waves, man. These ups and downs we’re about to face as a team, as a collective group it’s going to be fairly interesting.  It’ll really echo in terms of our identity, how we respond. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”

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LeBron James, Gregg Popovich speak out against Donald Trump on media day

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LeBron James, Gregg Popovich speak out against Donald Trump on media day

The flack that Donald Trump caught for his comments about athletes didn’t end after the NFL games, as LeBron James and Gregg Popovich were among the NBA figures to speak out against him during media day appearances Monday. 

James, who called Trump a “bum” for revoking Steph Curry’s invitation to the White House, said he doesn’t regret his choice of words at all. He clarified that he and his friends call each other bums, but that he would never call Trump his friend. 

“He doesn’t understand the power that he has, for being the leader of this beautiful country. He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the President of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement,” James said. “He doesn’t understand that, and that’s what makes me more sick than anything, that this is the number-one position in the world.

“And we are at a time where the most powerful position in the world has an opportunity to bring us closer together as people, and inspire the youth, and put the youth at ease on saying that, “It is OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged because of the color of my skin or because of my race.” And he has no recognition of that. And he doesn’t even care. Maybe he does, but he doesn’t care.”

Popovich, who said that the USA is currently “an embarrassment,” said that Trump is “comical.”

“I thought it was comical that [Curry’s invite] was rescinded, because [the Warriors] weren’t going anyway,” Popovich said. “It’s like a sixth-grader who’s gonna have a party in his backyard and he finds out somebody might not come so he disinvites him.

“But again I think, the behavior, although it’s disgusting, it’s also comical.”