Celtics could be in the market for big body

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Celtics could be in the market for big body

OKLAHOMA CITY The Boston Celtics will be down to just three big men against Oklahoma City tonight, with Jermaine O'Neal (left wrist) and Chris Wilcox (groin) both headed back to Boston to see doctors for additional tests.

Even if both receive good news that their injuries won't keep them out too long, the Celtics still might need to add another big man to the roster.

If the Celtics were to add a big man other than by trade, they would have to waive at least one player.

The most likely candidates to be waived would be Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, who have each played their way in and out of the rotation all season.

"It's pointing that way," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of needing to add a big man. "We'll find out more once Chris and JO get back. But the way they've been injured so much, we may need to get one, anyway."

And it may not necessarily come via free agent centers, either. Boston may look to the D-League for help as well.

Whatever they do, it's becoming increasingly clear that the C's don't have the kind of depth up front that they can rely on.

For Wilcox, he has missed three games with a left shoulder injury, and another six due to a sore left calf. O'Neal has missed two games with a sore knee and another two with a sore shoulder.

When you factor in Brandon Bass' left knee injury (he has missed six games and isn't expected back until after the all-star break), Boston's lack of depth upfront becomes a major, major issue.

Look at tonight's game.

Rivers said Garnett, who has missed the last two games dealing with a personal matter, will play more minutes than usual.

"We'll up his minutes by five minutes," Rivers said. "He's usually at 30. Today he'll play 35. But for 13 minutes, he'll be off the floor and somebody else will have to do something."

That means more Greg Stiemsma, who will get the starting nod at center. That also means more JaJuan Johnson, who has shown promise off the Celtics' bench this season.

"Trust me, everybody is going to play," said Rivers, whose roster is down to just 11 available bodies. "We got three bigs, and we're still debating on whether JuJuan is a big yet."

As far as the increased minutes for his younger players, Rivers isn't sold on the idea that it is a good thing for them or for the Celtics.

"You don't want to force anybody into minutes," Rivers said. "I've never believed that's good for a guy."

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

NEW ORLEANS – All-star weekend is winding down and the Boston Celtics once again are seemingly at the epicenter of most trade discussions.

That’s in part because they have the pieces to help pull off a blockbuster deal for themselves, or become the third team to help facilitate a trade coming to fruition. 

But in talking with league executives and scouts this weekend in New Orleans, all agree that the Celtics are focused more on making a blockbuster-type move, rather than a deal that could make them slightly better than they are now. 

“Anything is possible as you know,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “But they’re not Toronto which is basically 'all in' this year to try and get past Cleveland. Boston’s in the thick of it all, but not pressed to do anything unless it makes them a lot better and to be frank, there aren’t a lot of those potential deals out there for them.”

That’s because the Celtics (37-20) have the second-best record in the East despite their preferred starting five (Isaiah Thomas; Avery Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson) having played a very limited number of games (21) together thus far this season.

Even when everyone’s healthy, Boston understands that they still may not be enough to get past the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So the addition of a likely role player at the cost of one or more of their major assets (this year’s right to swap picks with Brooklyn or next year’s Brooklyn pick outright), is reason enough for Boston to pause and assess whether the benefit outweighs the cost of what they will have to give up. 

Boston can make a push for Denver’s Danilo Gallinari or his teammate Kenneth Faried who are both available and would help Boston’s overall talent base. They could also revisit Jahlil Okafor discussions or Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia, too.

But for what they need to significantly improve upon where they are now, they have to add a game-changing difference-maker to the mix. 

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins are three players who on paper at least, would meet that criteria. 

Multiple league sources this weekend confirmed that each of their respective teams isn’t making a push to trade them. But like every team in the league, they will certainly listen to any and all offers. Only Indiana and Sacramento have come out publicly to say they are not planning to trade their players, with the Pacers indicating they’re willing to give up their first-round pick in order to add a stable, proven talent to the mix in order to help George going forward. 

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been somewhat indifferent to potentially moving Butler, who is playing his third all-star game tonight. 

That’s why several teams, the Celtics included, have inquired about Butler’s availability. While the Bulls haven’t set any specific parameters, league executives believe they are seeking some combination of high draft picks and young veterans (players with experience who are either near the end of their rookie deals or have team-friendly contracts) just to consider moving Butler.

Boston has exactly what the Bulls are looking for if they decide they are going to move on from Butler and rebuild, but how much are the Celtics willing to give up?

That more than anything else, is what will ultimately determine if a deal between the Bulls and the Celtics comes to pass. Boston loves Butler, and believes he could be part of their continued surge towards becoming an elite team that can bring home Banner 18. But the Celtics are not convinced that the addition of Butler would necessarily catapult Boston to the same level of Cleveland or ahead of them. 

Even if the Celtics decide to stand pat with its team as they are now and let the Feb. 23 trade deadline pass without making a move, the Celtics are still working from a vantage point that few teams in the NBA can work from – a team near the top of their conference with relatively young players all with good team-friendly contracts, and draft picks in the next two years that are each likely to be high lottery (top-14) picks.

"They’re well positioned for the future,” said Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the West all-star team. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach (Brad Stevens) and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft which is remarkable.”

Kerr added, “That doesn’t happen often when you’re talking about a team that’s one of the best in the league already. Boston’s in a great place.”

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes.