OFFSEASON

Knicks' Stoudemire ready to face tested Celts

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Knicks' Stoudemire ready to face tested Celts

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Amare Stoudemire knew the challenges the Boston Celtics posed when he made the move to the New York Knicks last summer:

Defending Eastern Conference champions. Veteran team boasting future Hall of Famers. Multiple weapons on offense. Gritty defenders.

He had experienced it all before as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

They are the Eastern Conference champs and theyve won a championship here before in recent years, he said following the Celtics 112-102 win on Wednesday night. Theyre definitely the team to beat, so we have to make sure that we prepare for them.

Stoudemire thinks the sixth-seeded Knicks (42-40) have the pieces to do just that as they head into their first round playoff series against the third-ranked Celtics (56-26) on Sunday.

He believes the Knicks will have to play cohesively to defeat a Celtics squad loaded with options. This series will go beyond individual matchups between star players like Stoudemire (25.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Kevin Garnett (14.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Carmelo Anthony (26.3 ppg) and Paul Pierce (18.9 ppg), and Chauncey Billups (17.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Rajon Rondo (10.6 ppg, 11.2 apg). The Celtics have had postseason success in the past by getting everyone involved in the action.

Garnett is obviously good in the post, he shoots the 15-footer well, so its just a matter of us really playing team basketball, Stoudemire said. Hes not the only threat out there. You have Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, those guys are great, great players also. So he has a great supporting cast and weve just got to make sure we contain those guys.

Just as the Celtics will turn to their second unit to play a critical role in their success, Stoudemire hopes to get his entire team involved.

Its going to be very important that all of us are glued in and really studying these guys because theyre a great veteran team, he said. It takes for us to all be accountable on both ends of the court and actually know what were doing out there and play team basketball on both ends. So it takes dedication, it takes studying, especially in the playoffs.

The Knicks shook up their team and acquired Anthony in February for this very reason -- to win in the playoffs. After less than two months together, Stoudemire is confident in the chemistry he and Anthony have developed on the court.

We both are great offensive players, he said. I think the key for us is to get better defensively. But I think if we just continue to play as hard as we can and really try to win and get other guys involved, were going to be hard to stop. And I think Boston knows it. Theyre focusing on us as we are with them. Its going to be a tough match up.

Stoudemire is ready for this series. He knows the Celtics have been there before. Hes well aware of their proven track record in the postseason. But this is what he has been working toward all season, and he is up for the challenge against the Celtics star power.

They always say playoffs makes superstars, so this is the time where we all will step up and play great basketball, he said. It starts in Round 1, Boston-Knicks.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

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.