Pietrus joins the Celtics


Pietrus joins the Celtics

NEW YORK Christmas has come a little early for the Boston Celtics, with the addition of a much-needed wing player to help fill the void left behind with Jeff Green (heart surgery) out for the season.

Mickael Pietrus, who negotiated a buyout with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, cleared waivers Saturday night and as expected, signed on with the Boston Celtics.

"His skills as a perimeter defender and an outside shooter provide great versatility to the roster," Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge said in a statement released by the Celtics.

Prior to the C's announcing the deal, CSNNE.com reported that the 29-year-old had committed to the joining the Celtics.

His agent, Bill McCandless, told CSNNE.com shortly after Pietrus cleared Waivers Saturday night that he was in the process of finalizing a contract with the Celtics.

McCandless did not indicate the terms of the new deal, but the Celtics only have the veteran's minimum available.

That means the eight-year veteran would receive a pro-rated salary of about 1.2 million.

Pietrus choosing the Celtics is not that surprising.

Sources told CSNNE.com moments after the Suns released Pietrus on Thursday that the 6-foot-6 wing player was leaning "heavily" towards signing with the Celtics.

McCandless told CSNNE.com that night that Pietrus would "for sure" include the C's on his list of considerations.

It's unclear if Pietrus will be with the C's for Sunday's Christmas Day matchup against the New York Knicks. But barring an unexpected snafu, he'll most likely make his Celtics debut on Tuesday in Miami.

For the Celtics, the addition of Pietrus bodes well on a number of fronts.

After striking out in attempts to acquire Chris Paul and later David West, to beat out a handful of teams (New York and the Los Angeles Lakers among them) for a player of Pietrus' caliber provides proof that Boston may not be as bad a free agent destination as some might believe.

While the Celtics have what on paper appears to be a better bench than last season's second unit, they were sorely lacking an athletic wing player to compete defensively against the likes of Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, or New York's Carmelo Anthony.

And by signing Pietrus for this season at the veteran's minimum, the C's will preserve significant salary cap space for this summer's free agent class.

In Boston, what players do in the regular season is much less important than what they accomplish in the playoffs.

Although Pietrus doesn't have a ton of postseason experience (49 games), he did make quite an impression on the Celtics during their playoff series in 2009 with the Orlando Magic.

In that series, Pietrus averaged 12.1 points while shooting 62.8 percent from the field and 34.4 percent on 3s.

However, it was his play in Games 6 and 7 - both Orlando wins - that stood out. In Game 6, he had 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting which included a pair of 3-pointers. And in the decisive Game 7, he was nearly flawless with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting which included him making all three of his 3-pointers.

In the NBA Finals that year, the Magic were eliminated in five games by the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 9.8 points per game in the Finals, which included 18 points in Game 2 - the only game Orlando won in the series.

So it's clear that Pietrus has had moments in which he has delivered big-time performances in pressure-packed situations, the kind of performances the Celtics hope to see from the 29-year-old as they begin yet another journey to bring home Banner 18.

Isaiah Thomas recruits Blake Griffin on Instagram

Isaiah Thomas recruits Blake Griffin on Instagram

No eye emojis needed. Isaiah Thomas just went for it. 

Following news that Chris Paul will leave the Clippers for the Rockets, SLAM Magazine posted a picture of the seemingly disbanding Clippers. Thomas commented on the photo with, "Helluva run. Now Blake come on over to Boston lol." 

The Celtics are believed to be a contender to sign Griffin in free agency, though it was reported Tuesday that the team's priority this offseason is to sign Utah's Gordon Hayward and then trade for Indiana's Paul George. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that if the Celtics do not land Hayward, they would set their sights on Griffin. 

A five-time All-Star, the 28-year-old Griffin opted out of his contract last week. 

Knicks fire Phil Jackson after three ugly seasons

Knicks fire Phil Jackson after three ugly seasons

NEW YORK - Phil Jackson wanted to trade Carmelo Anthony and wouldn't rule out dealing Kristaps Porzingis.

Turns out, Jackson is the one leaving.

Jackson is out as New York Knicks president after he oversaw one of the worst eras in team history, with the team saying in a statement Wednesday that they had "mutually agreed to part company."

Days after Jackson reiterated his desire to move Anthony and said he would listen to deals for Porzingis, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan reversed course and cut ties with Jackson with two years remaining on his contract.

"After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction," Dolan said. "Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched."

But his work as a first-time executive was awful. The winner of an NBA-record 11 championships as coach, Jackson couldn't engineer one playoff berth while running the Knicks. The team was 80-166 in his three full seasons, including a franchise-worst 17-65 in 2014-15.

His departure was quickly welcomed by Knicks fans such as film director Spike Lee, who posted a picture of himself on Instagram in a celebratory pose after it was first reported by The Vertical.

The move comes less than a week after Jackson led the Knicks through the NBA draft and on the eve of free agency that opens Saturday. Dolan said he would not be involved in the operation of the team, adding that general manager Steve Mills would run the day-to-day business in the short term and that former Toronto executive Tim Leiweke would advise him and help develop a plan going forward.
Jackson was a Hall of Fame coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, delivering titles with some of the game's biggest stars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. He also played for the Knicks when they won NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.

He was welcomed back to the organization with a $60 million contract to huge fanfare in March 2014, but it soon became clear the transition would be a poor one. His first coaching hire, Derek Fisher, lasted just one-plus seasons, and Jackson's trades and free agency moves also failed to improve the team.

"I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden. As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren't able to do that," Jackson said. "New York fans deserve nothing less. I wish them and the Knicks organization all the best - today and always."

The turbulence he created off the court may have led to his departure more than the Knicks' record on it.

Jackson publicly talked about moving without Anthony - angering the National Basketball Players Association - though the All-Star forward has two years left on the five-year, $124 million deal that Jackson gave him shortly after taking the job. Anthony has a no-trade clause and has said he wants to stay in New York, and the stalemate that hung over the team for much of last season threatened to linger throughout the summer.

Then Jackson said before the draft that he was listening to offers for Porzingis, the 21-year-old forward from Latvia whom he drafted with the No. 4 pick in 2015 in one of his few successful moves.

Jackson believed the Knicks would compete for a playoff berth last season after he traded for Derrick Rose, signed Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee and hired Jeff Hornacek to coach. But after a solid start, they quickly spiraled toward their familiar position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and finished 31-51.

Despite all that, Dolan said during an ESPN Radio interview in February that he would allow Jackson to finish his contract, and the sides picked up the mutual two-year option on Jackson's contract.

But the instability involving Anthony and Porzingis threatened to damage the team's ability to lure free agents and may have spurred Dolan's decision. Though he had been intent on keeping Jackson, the dysfunction within the franchise showed no sign of ending even as Jackson, 71, largely stayed out of sight.

He never spoke to the media last season after vowing openness upon taking the job and refused to provide Anthony with the communication he sought.

"It's like a total train wreck," tennis great and Knicks fan John McEnroe told The Associated Press last week.

"I mean, he's known as the Zen Master, like a master talker, and then he's not talking to anybody," McEnroe said of Jackson. "So this whole thing seems to have gone completely off the rails."

There was also incessant debate about Jackson's insistence that the team employ the triangle offense, which potential incoming players were schooled on during the run-up to last week's draft. The Knicks wound up taking 18-year-old French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who spoke highly of the triangle and Jackson's belief in the scheme.

"I think I can definitely fit with this system," Ntilikina said on draft night.

Not even a week later, the triangle is probably gone, and the Knicks will start anew.

Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, will be a free agent. Noah - whom Jackson gave a puzzling four-year, $72 million contract last summer - will start the season by finishing out a 20-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first season in New York, shooting just 44 percent from the foul line.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2017 by The Associated Press