Blakely: Rivers the only man for Celtics

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Blakely: Rivers the only man for Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM As Danny Ainge made his way towards the media gathered to hear his annual state-of-the-franchise spiel Friday morning, his phone rang.

He stopped mid-stride and headed towards a more secluded room.

Behind the closed door, Ainge had one last conversation with Doc Rivers, before announcing that Rivers had agreed to a five-year deal to remain head coach of the Boston Celtics.

Yahoo! Sports reported the deal is worth 35 million.

There are a litany of reasons why re-signing Rivers to a long-term contract makes sense to Boston.

At the top of that list has to be the trust factor that exists between Rivers and Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Ainge has witnessed first-hand how Rivers has handled the trials and tribulations that come with being the head coach of the most storied franchise in NBA history.

From the franchise-worst 18 game losing streak, to winning an NBA title, Rivers has indeed seen the highs and lows that come with being the head coach of a big market team with an impressive history.

To focus on how Rivers led the team to the 2008 title and the success that has followed, makes for an easy justification for a long-term contract.

But the manner in which Rivers handled himself during that dreadful 2006-2007 season, was all Ainge needed to see to know that this was the man he wanted leading this franchise for many years to come.

"I saw determination, I saw hard work, persistence he's a great leader in the face of adversity," Ainge said. "There's nobody I'd rather have on my side than Doc."

And that feeling is mutual.

Earlier this season, Rivers spoke with CSNNE.com about the importance of his relationship with Ainge.

"Danny and I have an unbelievable relationship," Rivers said. "As you know, we had our rough patches as a team around here we just weren't winning. Danny's support for me and my staff was steady through those rough times; never wavered. You don't forget that kind of support, ever."

That's why the notion that Rivers would commit to a long-term contract with the Celtics shouldn't be all that surprising.

Amid public pressure, Ainge stood his ground in support of Rivers when there were so many who felt a change needed to be made.

Now that Rivers has established himself as one of the NBA's elite head coaches who can essentially command just about any job he wants, he has rewarded the C's and their loyalty with a commitment to be around as the team makes another run at Banner 18 and what will likely be a rebuilding process when the Big Three retire in all likelihood under his watch.

"He knows the circumstances of our team as well as anybody," Ainge said. "He knows the ages, contracts he gets it all. But he wants to be part of this franchise. He wants to be working with us. We have a great relationship that is unique and hard to find in our business. He appreciates that and would prefer to stay regardless of where we are on the ability to win a championship."

And it is that latter point that makes Rivers' decision so special.

With the kind of success and reputation he has garnered throughout the league, there's little doubt that in another year or two, he can latch on to team that might be more title-ready than the C's will be once Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen move on.

"Doc wants to be here," Ainge said. "It's not all because he thinks over the next five years, he thinks we're going to have the best team in the NBA. He feels like he's part of this franchise. He likes working here. He's willing to do whatever it takes to help us be successful."

As competitive as Rivers is, he has always been a coach who sees something in his players that few others can envision.

Take a look at last season.

The Celtics looked like a bunch of zombies as they limped into the playoffs while finishing a disappointing fourth in the East.

With all the struggles and late-game collapses, Rivers' faith in his players remained solid.

In fact, the more they struggled, the stronger his belief that they would turn it around seemed to be.

Sure enough, the Celtics remained relatively healthy throughout the playoffs and advanced to the NBA Finals where they came up short to the Los Angeles Lakers.

And this past season, Rivers' confidence in his team was just as strong - just as long as they could get enough guys healthy in the postseason.

Sadly for Celtics Nation, that was not meant to be as the injury-riddled Celtics were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Wednesday.

Shaquille O'Neal and his right leg injuries limited him to just 12 minutes - total - in the playoffs.

Rajon Rondo played two-plus games of the Miami series essentially with one arm after suffering a dislocated left elbow in the third quarter of Boston's Game 3 win.

Jermaine O'Neal started all nine playoff games for the Celtics, playing all of them with a broken left wrist injury that Ainge said on Friday would require surgery as well as the likely insertion of pins to stabilize it.

There were others with less serious injuries, but Rivers and his players refused to make excuses for falling short to the Heat.

In fact, losing to the Heat seemed to have only served as a reminder that walking away from the Celtics - be in in victory or defeat - is a lot easier said than done.

Right after the Game 5 loss, Rivers indicated that he was leaning heavily towards coming back.

Usually he takes some time off after the season is over to evaluate whether he wants to keep coaching, or whether he wants to take some time off to be with his wife and children.

Here's the funny thing about the Celtics.

For Rivers, they are family as well.

That's why when the C's traded away Kendrick Perkins, Rivers was among the more bleary-eyed C's when the deal was officially done.

That's why no matter how maddening Glen Davis can make him at times, he loves him the way a father loves his son who doesn't always do things the way he's supposed to, but you love him nonetheless because he's family.

That's why no matter how many times he butted heads with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in their early years together, both have come to respect and love Rivers the way a young son does when he eventually becomes a man.

In the coming years, the Celtics are surely in for some rocky, turbulent times.

Give Ainge credit.

He's wise enough to know that you can't navigate successfully through those times without a leader who, regardless of how the winds of change swirl, will hold his ground.

That's Doc Rivers, head coach of the Boston Celtics.

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

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

BOSTON -- Phil Jackson will be the first to admit he has made some mistakes during his tenure in the New York Knicks' front office.

Among the miscues was a deal that would have landed them Jae Crowder.

"One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics," Jackson told the website, www.todaysfastbreak.com.

Jackson later revealed that in conversations with Boston leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, he was given an option to either keep the second-round pick which was to be conveyed to Boston from Dallas, or take Jae Crowder and allow Boston to keep the second-round pick from the Mavs.

"I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo (Anthony)," Jackson said. "So I took the (second-round) pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early.”

Ouch!

With Crowder left out of the six-player deal between New York and Dallas, the Celtics were able to engineer a trade with the Mavericks six months later that sent Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas in exchange for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, draft picks and what many believed at the time to be a “throw in” player by the name of Jae Crowder.

Less than two years later, Crowder is the lone player acquired by Boston in that deal who remains on the Celtics roster.

And as we have all seen, Crowder is far from just a warm body on the Celtics’ roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward has emerged as a core member of this young, up-and-coming Celtics squad, a key to Boston going from being a team rebuilding just three years ago to one that’s poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.

And the play of Crowder has been a significant part of that growth.

Last season was his first as an NBA starter, and the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity by averaging career highs in just about every meaningful category such as scoring (14.2), steals (1.7), assists (1.8), rebounds (5.1), field goal percentage (.443) and starts (73).

Meanwhile, Early has had a pair of injury-riddled seasons which have factored heavily into him seeing action in a total of just 56 games (9 starts) while averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 34.6 percent from the field and a woeful 26.3 percent on 3s.

“While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us,” Jackson said, “He still has the potential to be a valuable player.”

That said, Jackson knows he screwed that deal up, big time.

Even with the potential Early brings to the game, Jackson concedes, “I should have taken Crowder."

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.