OFFSEASON

Garnett has significant impact in first game back

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Garnett has significant impact in first game back

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The powder was clasped, and slowly rose in the air near the scorer's table.

A one-handed chest-pounding before the opening tip-off.

Getting it done at both ends of the floor.

Yes.

Kevin Garnett was back to doing what KG has done for years, as the Celtics held on for a 109-106 win over Orlando Monday night.

Garnett, who had missed the previous nine games with a muscle strain in his lower right leg, had 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and countless high-energy plays that seemed to charge up his teammates at just the right time - the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Celtics were 6-3 without Garnett, which isn't too shabby.

But there's no mistaking the impact Garnett's presence has on this team.

"We look like a totally different team with Garnett," said Paul Pierce. "Just with Kevin on the court . . . you can't replace what Kevin gives to a ball club."

Numbers only provide a glimpse into the window of opportunities a team has when Garnett is on the floor.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't know how effective Garnett would be, especially after the team's practice on Sunday.

"Sunday, our practice was crazy with energy," Rivers said. "I was concerned about his wind; I wasn't concerned about his health at all. Sunday, we went an hour. And after about 10 minutes, he looked like he needed an oxygen tank."

That's why Rivers subbed for him out in the first quarter at the 2:50 mark, with Luke Harangody.

"I thought he was struggling then," Rivers said. "But he came back, and he was great."

Garnett is no stranger to missing games.

Two years ago, he missed 25 regular-season games and the entire playoffs because of a right knee injury.

Even with that experience under his belt, it didn't make dealing with his most recent injury any easier to swallow.

"These two weeks, they have been dark days for me," Garnett said. "Being hurt is not one of the things I like to be a part of; I hate it. I don't deal with it well. But as I get older, along with these knuckleheads keeping it real light for me, and keeping my spirits up, I just went through two-a-days, continue to work and doing what I got to do to get back. And again, tonight I felt stronger and just continue to build on this and hopefully we don't have any mishaps."

His return did not come as a surprise to Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whose game plan included prep work for dealing with Garnett.

"They have more size when he's there," Van Gundy said. "He's a great defender, anyway. And then he brings a lot of size to the table. They're a lot bigger. Kevin's length is huge for them defensively."

Magic forward Brandon Bass, who began Monday's game matched up against Garnett, didn't believe the long layoff impacted Garnett's game.

"He's a great player," Bass told CSNNE.com. "It doesn't matter how long he's out. Kevin Garnett is always going to be a tough challenge for you."

Especially when he's healthy, which is indeed the case right now.

"It doesn't always show up with his numbers, but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers," Pierce said. "We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and you know that's the culture he's brought here since Day 1 he's been here and it's infectious. He raises everyone's play when he's on the court."

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

OFFSEASON

Thomas will be 'as real as possible' if part of Celtics meeting with Durant

Thomas will be 'as real as possible' if part of Celtics meeting with Durant

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics are longing for some fireworks this weekend, but we’re not talking about the Fourth of July variety.

The Celtics will make their pitch to Kevin Durant which is taking shape as the most important player pursuit by Boston ever.

Boston made the cut of six teams that Durant will limit his discussions to this weekend, with a decision expected prior to July 9 which is when he embarks on an overseas trip.

As of Thursday evening, Thomas wasn’t sure if he was going to be part of the group that meets with Durant.

“If they need me to do it, I’ll definitely do it,” said Thomas who added that he would be meeting with Danny Ainge later in the day. “We’ll see.”

If he does (as expected) partake in the official recruitment of Durant, Thomas already has an idea of how he’ll approach things.

“First off, I’m going to go buy some (Kevin Durant sneakers),” quipped Thomas. “If I do go to the meeting, I’ll be in … the whole outfit. I’m just gonna be as real as possible. As a basketball player and a basketball fan, he knows what Boston brings.”

On Thursday, Thomas was at Faneuil Hall in conjunction with Good Humor ice cream which began its East coast tour in Boston.

That relationship is yet another of the perks that comes with being a standout basketball player in Boston.

Thomas was a solid NBA player prior to coming to Boston.

But since his arrival in February of 2015, he has become a fan favorite whose play has been pivotal to Boston’s continued success which included them winning 48 games this past season – the most under third-year coach Brad Stevens – and Thomas being selected to his first all-star game.

As Thomas handed out free ice cream to kids and adults and a slew of Celtics fans, they all had a similar message for him – “Bring KD to Boston!”

Thomas wasn’t surprised.

“They (fans) want greatness, they want top players,” Thomas said. “They’ll do whatever they can to get them.”

And Thomas believes the same is true for Ainge and the entire Celtics franchise.

That’s in part by Thomas has a good feeling that Boston’s roster next fall will include at least one other all-star caliber player besides himself.

“I’m very confident,” Thomas said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be Kevin Durant. Who knows? But I’m confident he’ll get a guy that can help build on what we have going here.”

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

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Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

The Celtics will make qualifying offers to Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller by the Friday deadline, the Boston Herald reports.

With offers of $4.4 million to Sullinger and $3.7 million to Zeller, the two will become restricted free agents, meaning the Celtics have can match any offer sheet they sign. The two would have become unrestricted free agents without the qualifying offers.

Sullinger could take the offer to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Herald reported Zeller would likely be looking elsewhere to find a bigger role after his playing time decreased last season.

Sullinger started 73 games and averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes in the first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks and lost his starting job two games into that series. 

Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds last season. He played in three of the six games in the Atlanta series. 

OFFSEASON

Celtics' ace in the hole in pursuit of Durant: Brad Stevens

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Celtics' ace in the hole in pursuit of Durant: Brad Stevens

Kevin Durant is hanging out in the Hamptons waiting to be wooed by six NBA teams, including your Boston Celtics.

(Wait, this just in: A seventh party has entered the sweepstakes. Kelly Ripa, a fellow Hamptonite has requested to pitch KD on becoming her co-host. “It’s LIVE with Kelly and KD!” It flows.)

Today Durant meets with his current team the Oklahoma City Thunder. What the hell is anyone going to say in this meeting? “Hey, KD. Anything new since we saw you a month ago, when you couldn’t make a shot in the clutch against the Warriors?”

Seriously, what can OKC tell the guy about their team that he doesn’t already know? He could have just stopped by the GM’s office on his way to the Hamptons. But, in this day and age of the power player, all must bow to him. Ah, what the hell. I would probably do the same thing.

I have a gut feeling about OKC and Durant. He wants out. If not this year -- because it looks like he's going back to the Thunder for one more season -- than the next. Is it the small town? Is it that Russell Westbrook could bolt next season to the Lakers? Is it coach Billy Donovan?

Ahhh ha! That’s what I’m going with.

I've always read that Durant loves the fans in OKC. He has never seen like a “big city” guy to me, or someone who has to live in South Beach or Manhattan. Kevin Durant has always seemed to be about basketball and that’s why I think he has man love for Brad Stevens.

I have this moment during the playoffs when OKC was playing the Warriors engrained in my brain. Durant commits a stupid mistake out of frustration that results in a turnover and a Warriors hoop. On the sideline, Billy Donovan chews his ear off for what seemed forever.

That was a mistake. Billy the Kid needed to realize he wasn't in Gainesville anymore. Remember, Billy is chip off the old Rick Pitino coaching block. Both love to talk and love to coach.

That can work against you in the NBA.

Brad Stevens, who is a better coach than Donovan, would never do that. Heck, Brad rarely shows up a rookie on the sideline. He's smart enough to know if a veteran like Durant errs because he's mad, nothing needs to be said. Players like Durant, LeBron or Steph know when they screw up.

I can see Durant talking basketball with Brad for hours, I mean, leave the room at lunch and come back after dinner and you'd find the two still jawing about everything from calling plays after time outs to Texas’s prospects next year.

I know Danny Ainge sat next to Durant’s mother during the tournament and was fined for it. Still, it was a very nice touch and it certainly made an impression on KD.

But the real reason, in my opinion, that he's thinking about Boston is Stevens.

Now if the Celtics can sell on him on playing with Jaylen Brown, they have a real shot.

Good luck with that.