OFFSEASON

Bulls more confident after Celtics dealt Perkins

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Bulls more confident after Celtics dealt Perkins

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

CHICAGO Former Boston Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine still believes the C's are one of the top teams in the NBA.

But you can throw him into the camp that believes the loss of Perkins has given many teams -- including his current club, the Chicago Bulls -- a boost of confidence that they can do some things against the Celtics that they weren't able to do before Perkins was traded.

"For us, Perkins was an intimidating factor at the rim," Scalabrine told Comcast SportsNet prior to Thursday night's game. "Kevin Garnett and Perkins out there, that's a big deal."

While the Celtics are certainly not the same team since Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City on Feb. 24, it's not like they weren't used to playing without him.

Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June. He didn't return to the Celtics lineup until Jan. 25 against Cleveland.

The Celtics traded Perkins, along with Nate Robinson, to Oklahoma City on Feb. 24 for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Prior to the trade, Perkins was sidelined with a knee injury that was non-related to the torn MCL and PCL injury he suffered earlier.

He eventually joined the Thunder's lineup, and has been instrumental in them winning 10 of the 13 games he has appeared in this season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are 13-9 since Green and Krstic joined the team.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant, recognizes how the trade has given the C's added depth. He also points out how even with the moves, the group you see on the floor to end most games isn't all that different now than the group that closed out games when Perkins was around.

However, Thibodeau acknowledges that they are definitely a different team without Perkins.

"He's a very good all-around player for them," Thibodeau said. "He benefited from being around Kevin a lot."

Looking back at the 2008 championship team, Perkins spent most of his time trying to establish position in the post.

Meanwhile, Garnett would be running around the court most games setting screens, and occasionally look to take his man down on the block.

"Kevin has a right to call for the ball every time down the floor," Thibodeau said. "But he never does that. He flies all around setting screens. What that led to, was Perkins ending up doing the same thing. They created a lot of easy offense for their team. And defensively, when you put Perkins and Garnett out there together, it was probably as good as it gets in terms of length, intelligence, pick-and-roll defense, catch-and-shoot defense . . . he was a terrific player. He understood his role."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers can understand why so many fans still pine away at the days in which Perkins wore a Celtics uniform.

That doesn't bother him.

What does irritate him is the perception that the trade made the Celtics a smaller team.

When the Celtics traded Perkins, they did so with the intent being that Shaquille O'Neal would be on the floor relatively soon afterward.

Since the trade, O'Neal has played a total of just six minutes. He's currently out with a right calf strain injury.

"I don't what people expect, honestly," Rivers said. "That part of it, I don't care. But we didn't get smaller. That's the one thing you keep hearing, 'We got smaller.' Actually, we've gotten bigger if Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal play and all of them play. But they haven't played. So how could anyone know."

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

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Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three, first-round picks on International players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either of Boston’s international first rounder picks Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here, … is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the International top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding … now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.

OFFSEASON

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

BOSTON – The Celtics are considered long shots at landing Kevin Durant during free agency, which begins next week.

Still, if they come up short this summer, league sources tell CSNNE.com that the Celtics will be on a “watch list” of sorts by Durant’s camp when the former league MVP is expected to hit the free agent market once again in the summer of 2017.
 
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Durant will have teams meet with him in New York beginning next week. In addition to the Celtics, his current team Oklahoma City will sit down with him, as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Durant can re-sign with the Thunder for as many as five years with the total value of his contract worth slightly more than $150 million.
 
However, by signing a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option for the second season, Durant would make a projected $25.9 million for the 2016-2017 season and can then hit the free agent market again in 2017 when the salary cap is expected to cross the nine-figure threshold.
 
And at that time, if he decides to stay with the Thunder, he can ink a five-year deal that, when combined with his salary in 2016-2017, would be more than $230 million over six years – that’s about $80 million more than he would get by re-signing a long-term deal with the Thunder now, and would more than double what he would make by signing a maximum-salaried four-year deal with another team.
 
That’s why it makes a lot of sense for him to sign a short-term deal now and better position himself for a bigger payday the following summer when his starting salary will likely be on the north side of $35 million.
 
For the Celtics, Durant going through free agency back-to-back years affords coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics one more opportunity to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings while still being a team that’s clearly in need of adding at least one additional All-Star talent to play with Isaiah Thomas.

In his three seasons as the Celtics coach, Stevens has improved the team’s win total each season.
 
However, they have failed to win a playoff series after having been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
 
While Durant is the team’s No. 1 priority on the free agent market, the Celtics will quickly pivot their attentions to other highly-regarded players as well with Atlanta’s Al Horford being among their targets.

Depending on how quickly Durant’s free agency gets taken care of, the Celtics might be able to turn their attention towards potentially re-signing Evan Turner, who was sixth in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting last season.

OFFSEASON

Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

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Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

With the Celtics reportedly in the running in the Kevin Durant Derby, C's guard Isaiah Thomas is continuing his recruiting pitch with this playful tweet.

Thomas said in a radio interview earlier this week that the Celtics "definitely have a shot" at landing Durant and a few months ago, Thomas' essay in the Players Tribune is perhaps his best sales job of all.