OFFSEASON

Blakely: Celtics-Heat preview

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Blakely: Celtics-Heat preview

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Celtics (56-26) vs Heat (58-24)
Celtics won regular season series 3-1, but the Heat will have home-court advantage.

How did they get here?
Celtics swept the New York Knicks, 4-0, in their first-round playoff series. The Heat defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-1, in their first-round playoff series.

Playoff Team leadersCeltics: PPG Paul Pierce (22.3); RPG Kevin Garnett (11.3); APG Rajon Rondo (12.0)
Heat: PPG LeBron James (24.2); RPG LeBron James (10.6); APG LeBron James (6.2)

What to look for
The playoff series that we've all been waiting for, has finally arrived. You're going to hear a lot about Boston's Big Three versus their more youthful Big Three counterparts. But this series will ultimately be decided by the Celtics' point guard, Rajon Rondo, and the Boston bench. Rondo has a decisively lopsided advantage over Mike Bibby and to a lesser degree, Mario Chalmers. As for the bench, the C's backups finally showed a pulse in the Game 4 win over New York. They'll have to deliver games with a similar or greater impact against a Miami team whose bench has come under fire all season.

Matchup to watch
There are so many good battles to choose from, but Ray Allen versus Dwyane Wade sticks out. The C's won three of the four regular-season meetings in part because of Allen's accuracy shooting the ball (he shot 49.2 percent from the field, 57 percent on 3s and was perfect from the free throw line), and Wade's woeful play at both ends of the floor. Allen averaged a team-high 20.3 points against the Heat while Wade averaged just 12.8 pointson 28.1 percent shooting from the field.

X-factor
Again, the choices for this are plentiful. But it's a couple of injured players whose return - and the impact of that return - could tilt this series one way or another. For Boston, the C's have the ultimate wild card in Shaquille O'Neal. The issue isn't whether he'll play well, but will he play at all. If the Celtics can get 5-10 minutes from O'Neal, you figure that's four or five points or a couple of Miami Heat fouls. Miami has Udonis Haslem, who has actually missed more games this season than O'Neal. His ability to bang around the basket as well as knock down mid-range jumpers can be a major boost for the Heat against the Celtics' highly-regarded defense.
And the winner is . . .
NBA fans, because most would agree that the Conference Final will truly be anticlimatic after these two NBA Goliaths battle one another. Boston has experience and depth, while the Heat have arguably the most talented trio of players in the NBA with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Both teams have their share of role players who will be counted on to step up and contribute in a big way.

But here's the thing about greatness. Before you triumph, you tend to go through your share of trials and tribulations. Each of Boston's Big Three had their share of trouble prior to coming to Boston. This current Big Three in Miami, haven't really gone through the rough times that all great teams must endure. Not having that experience, maybe more than anything else, contributed to the Heat's inability to initially get past the Celtics. And I think it will come back to bite them again. That's why I got Boston winning this series in six games.

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics picks Brown, Yabusele, Bentil on Summer League roster

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Celtics picks Brown, Yabusele, Bentil on Summer League roster

Celtics 2016 draft picks Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ben Bentil, Demetrius Jackson and Abdel Nader will join last year’s rookies R.J. Hunter, Terry Rozier, and Jordan Mickey on the Celtics Summer League roster, which the team announced Friday. 

Danny Ainge had mentioned after the draft he wasn’t sure about No. 16 overall pick Yabusele, from France, or No. 23 pick Ante Zizic’s availability for the Summer League. Zizic, from Croatia, is not on the roster. 

2014 draft pick James Young is also among those on the roster. 

The Utah Summer League begins on Monday, with a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m. (on CSN) and the Las Vegas Summer League runs from July 9-18.


 

OFFSEASON

Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

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Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

BOSTON – CSNNE.com has learned that the Celtics have had discussions about bringing Kris Humphries back to Boston for a second tour of duty.

No deal is imminent because the Celtics’ focus remains on trying to land at least one of their top three free agent targets – Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Atlanta’s Al Horford and Houston’s Dwight Howard.

Durant has a list of six teams that he will consider signing with, although all indications at this point see the perennial All-Star returning to Oklahoma City with a “1+1” deal which would give him the flexibility to opt-out of the second year and do this free agency process all over again.

Horford and Howard seem more realistic options for the Celtics, although Boston will face steep competition when it comes to signing either one of them.

With Humphries, the Celtics would add a familiar face to the roster who when he did play for Boston, was productive.

In his lone season with the Celtics (2013-2014), Humphries averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game while shooting a career-high 50.1 percent from the field.

His play was strong enough to earn him a three-year, $13 million deal from the Washington Wizards.

During his time with the Celtics, Humphries was more than just a solid performer.

He was a veteran who was in and out of the lineup, but never grumbled about his inconsistent minutes.

But when the opportunity arose to play, Humphries was consistently ready to perform.

In practices, he would often stay after and run end-to-end sprints with the younger players.

It was the kind of stealth leadership that Brad Stevens needed from inside the locker room in what was Stevens’ first season as an NBA coach.

But the interest in Humphries now is two-fold.

First and foremost, he would provide some much-needed depth along the frontline. And with him being more of a stretch big now (108 of his 134 career 3s taken came last season), he fits the versatility mold that Stevens and the Celtics want from all their players.

And maybe just as significant, Humphries could provide talent while not necessarily needing a long-term deal to join the Celtics. Humphries was thought to have been a player who could command a deal starting at around $10 million.

But with some of the deals reportedly agreed upon just hours into the free agency period (Timofey Mozgov to the Lakers for four years, $64 million; Joakim Noah to New York for four years, $70 million), Humphries’ starting salary now will likely fall somewhere between $10-$15 million.And lastly, Humphries knows first-hand what it's like to play for the Celtics and the connection that players have with the team's fanbase.

And lastly, Humphries knows first-hand what it's like to play for the Celtics and the connection that players have with the team's fanbase.

"This is one of the best home crowds in sports, I would say," Humphries told CSNNE.com. 

OFFSEASON

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Evan Turner revived his career with the Celtics the past two years and is now drawing plenty of interest around the league as free agency opens.

The unrestricted free agent averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4  assists as a sixth man last season with Boston. The Sporting News reports that the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, Pelicans, Mavericks and Grizzlies are looking to bid for Turner.  

Turner earlier expressed an interest in returning to the Celtics, who have their immediate focus on meetings with Kevin Durant and Al Horford this weekend and dealing with their other free agents Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and restricted free agents Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller, as well. 

NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports the interest between the Lakers and Turner is mutual.