OFFSEASON

Celtics hope thin bench can cool Heat

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Celtics hope thin bench can cool Heat

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM You don't have to remind Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers that he'll have nine, maybe 10 healthy players when the C's host the Miami Heat in a matchup between the top two teams in the East.

After the starting five, the Celtics bench includes Glen Davis, Von Wafer, Nate Robinson (maybe), Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley.

Let's face it.

The bottom of the barrel?

Yes, the C's are scraping it right now, hoping that someone, anyone, will step up on Sunday and help the C's get past a Miami Heat team that's playing great basketball right now.

Win or lose, Rivers will come away knowing more about his team than he did prior to tip-off.

"You get a reading from every game; it's a false reading, but it is a reading after that game," he said. "I don't think right now, anytime, means anything later except for that moment. You do get reads after each game; the things your team needs to work on."

For the C's, staying healthy might be a good starting point.

The latest roll call of injuries includes: Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord); Jermaine O'Neal (left knee), Shaquille O'Neal (right Achilles), Delonte West (broken right wrist), Semih Erden (groin).

Also, Robinson has a bruised right knee injury and did not practice on Saturday. However, the Celtics as well as Robinson are hopeful that he'll be able to play against the Heat.

Even with a less-than-ideal roster to work with, the Celtics aren't conceding anything to the Heat.

"You still want to win and prove to yourself that we're good enough," said C's guard Ray Allen. "That's not a bad mentality to have when it comes to any team that you play. Having that mentality, that underdog mentality you try and do everything you can to scrape and claw to get what you think is owed to you. So that's the mentality we have to have."

Boston's biggest issue with the lack of depth will be in their approach to defending LeBron James.

Because of his size, speed and strength, the C's anticipate racking up a lot of fouls trying to guard him.

However, the Celtics know that they no longer have that luxury due to all the banged up players.

In fact, Paul Pierce is the only healthy small forward on the Celtics roster. He'll be backed up by Von Wafer, a 6-5 shooting guard who has played the small forward position when one of his former teams, the Houston Rockets, were in a similar pinch because of injuries.

"I'm just going to try and hold my own. I got pride," Wafer said. "I'm just going to fight. If a guy makes a shot, he makes it."

Pierce's approach to playing the Heat can be summed up in three words: avoid foul trouble.

"When you're short-handed, the approach is to not get into foul trouble," Pierce said. "If I get in foul trouble, it's tough on us. Having lack of defenders on the perimeter, especially against LeBron being a 3-man and being a strong, athletic player not a lot of guys match up with him."

Added Rivers: "Paul will play as much as he can, and then we'll use someone else. But you don't guard LeBron with Paul or anyone else. You guard him with your team, anyway."

And when you throw in the fact that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are meshing better with James, and the fact that a number of their role players are starting to fill the roles that they were brought in to fill, the Heat would be a stiff challenge for the Celtics even if the C's were at full strength.

But they're not, which is perfectly all right with Rivers who refuses to use the team's lack of depth as an excuse.

"Every game tells me about something that we need to do better," Rivers said. "I don't even look at injury part of that. I look at how the group is performing now."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@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.