OFFSEASON

NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When the D-League was first created, there was a stigma attached to it.

The league promoted it as a developmental league. To the casual basketball fan, the 'D' stood for demotion.

But in recent years, it has become clear that the D-League is indeed about helping develop and evaluate young talent.

And that's why Celtics first-round pick Avery Bradley is exactly where he belongs right now with the Maine Red Claws.

Even before he needed offseason ankle surgery, Bradley was going to have a tough time breaking through a Celtics guard rotation filled with talented, proven veterans.

And with the Celtics looking for him to become more of a point guard, the challenge of playing appeared even more daunting.

However, Boston recognized that there is value in him being surrounded early on his career with savvy, battle-tested veterans such as Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West.

His older teammates have praised him often for his willingness to listen, learn and ask when he's not sure about how to do something.

"That's what I'm supposed to do," he told CSNNE.com. "I feel like I would be stupid not to ask questions, being on a team like this with stars like this. I can learn so much from them."

The same can be said for his time in the D-League.

In two games with the Red Claws, Bradley is averaging 13.5 points, four assists and two rebounds per game.

Midseason Awards

This season has been filled with a number of coaches doing an impressive job, with some getting it done under less-than-perfect circumstances. And it is because of that latter point that I have to give my midseason Coach of the Year award to Chicago's Tom Thibodeau.

The former Celtics assistant has not looked like a rookie coach, which is impressive when you consider the number of proven veterans he has inherited and the fact that he has had to endure a number of injuries to key players.

The Bulls are very much in the hunt for home court advantage in the playoffs. Their talented roster obviously has a lot to do with that.

But so has the leadership displayed by their rookie head coach.

Here's a rundown of my other midseason award winners:

Rookie of the Year
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: The rookie of the Year award is a given. How about league MVP?

Sixth Man of the Year
Glen Davis, Boston Celtics: Davis' stiffest competitors for this award (Jason Terry of Dallas and Jamal Crawford of Atlanta) have already won one.

MVP
LeBron James, Miami Heat: His numbers, impact on his current and former team (Cleveland) give him a slight edge over the rest of the field.

Perkins returns as a starter?
There's no denying that having Shaquille O'Neal in the starting lineup has been a major plus for the Celtics this season. But with Kendrick Perkins officially back in the fold in a few weeks, one can't forget how successful the C's have been in recent years with him manning the middle.

So what does Doc Rivers do?

It's simple, really.

You go right back to Perkins.

Since suffering a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last June, Perkins has worked diligently to ensure he'll be able to compete at a high level upon his return which he hopes will be Feb. 4 against Dallas.

The biggest reason you bring Perkins back as a starter, is because he and Kevin Garnett are arguably the best frontcourt defensive tandem in the NBA.

"As far as me with the starting five, or me and KG being the best tandem on defense, we pretty much know each other," Perkins said. "We all got flaws on certain parts of the defensive end. With him, he knows how to cover up my weaknesses. I know how to cover up his."

And by moving O'Neal to the bench, this gives Boston's second unit a huge advantage in the middle against most opponents. But to get the most out of O'Neal with the reserves, the C's have to start developing chemistry with that second unit which hasn't been easy because of all the injuries.

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

OFFSEASON

Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

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Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

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 Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic, who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively, next season.

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-foot-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.