OFFSEASON

Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

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Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- You better believe the Boston Celtics will be in the market for at least one center during the offseason.

They may not have to look too far to find one.

Although it's still early, Nenad Krstic's representatives like what they've seen thus far in this Krstic-Celtics union that may eventually lead to a relationship beyond this season.

Krstic will earn 5.53 million in this, the final year of a three-year, 15.5 million contract he signed in 2008.

A free agent this summer, Krstic has fit in quite well with the Celtics -- better than most would have anticipated.

His agent, Marc Cornstein, likes the way the Celtics have integrated his client into their game plan, but preaches patience in discussing Krstic's long-term plans with the C's.

"He's a great fit for the team," Cornstein told CSNNE.com. "It sounds like the Celtics feel the same way. Let's get through the rest of the year and the playoffs. Hopefully they have a great run and he has a great run with them. We'll take it from there. But it certainly has been as good as we could have hoped for at this point."

When the C's made the trade with Oklahoma City that featured Jeff Green, with Krstic as more of a throw-in, few would have expected the 7-foot Krstic to be such a valuable contributor so quickly.

In nine games (all starts), he has averaged 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 55.3 percent from the field.

His play has helped cushion the blow of not having Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal around, both out with injuries.

The reason for Krstic's strong play is pretty simple.

In Oklahoma City, most of the Thunder offense went through All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Look at the numbers.

While with the Thunder this season, Krstic averaged just 6.5 field-goal attempts per game. With the Celtics, he's up to 8.8 per game.

"Just getting more involved, especially offensively," Krstic said. "I'm touching the ball. In Oklahoma City, I didn't really. Sometimes five or six times I didn't touch the ball. It's not to shoot, just to touch the ball. Here is different. If you play aggressive, you run the floor, get a good duck-in in the paint, you're going to get the ball."

Cornstein acknowledged how the C's Big Four have gone out of their way to embrace Krstic, which has helped make the adjustment smoother.

"They're so comfortable with each other," Cornstein said. "Being the fifth guy in there has been an easier adaptation than if you're getting thrown in with all new players still learning each other. He recognized that this was a new opportunity for him. He relishes the chance to win a title and be a contributing factor in that happening."

And while the plan still remains that Shaquille O'Neal will be the starter when he returns, Krstic has proven himself to be far more valuable than a stop-gap measure or a 'throw-in' player in the trade centered around Perkins and Jeff Green.

"It doesn't matter to me, about starting or coming off the bench," Krstic told CSNNE.com. "I'm learning a lot, because everything is new to me. I'll do whatever the team needs me to do. I just want to win, that's all."

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.