OFFSEASON

Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court

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Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
SPRINGFIELD, MA. For Tom Sanders, life in the NBA has never been about numbers, unless you're talking about championships.

He was a key cog in Boston's NBA reign in the 1960s, but his greatest impact had little to do with points - and everything to do with people.

Sanders played an integral role in the establishment of the several NBA programs that would go on to help rookies deal with the various challenges they would face as professional players on and off the court; programs that would go on to help shape similar transition programs in other professional sports leagues.

For years, Sanders' efforts went unnoticed.

Not anymore.

Sanders was among the 10 individuals chosen as members of the 2011 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. Sanders enters the Hall of Fame as a contributor, which was voted on by the veteran's committee.

"He has been an enormous asset to the NBA," said Celtics great Bill Russell, during a video tribute to Sanders. Satch understood to lead, is to serve."

Joining Sanders in the 2011 Hall of Fame class were former NBA players Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Arvydas Sabonis and Chris Mullin along with four-time NCAA women's coach of the year Tara VanDerveer, four-time Olympic gold medalist Teresa Edwards, all-time NCAA wins leader at Philadelphia University and former Boston Celtics draft pick (1963, No. 62 overall pick) Herb Magee, coaching legend Tex Winter and former Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum who was honored posthumously.

And in typical Sanders style, his opening remarks during his acceptance speech began with congratulating the other nine members of the Hall of Fame class.

"The quintessential team member was Tom Sanders, who had a very selfless role as a player," said Sanders' former Celtics teammate Tommy Heinsohn, Hall of Fame class of 1986 who was chosen by Sanders as his presenter. "He (Sanders) was a guy, I termed him the second best defender on a very good defensive team next to Bill Russell. But he was never recognized in the league for that."

A 13-year NBA veteran, Sanders was part of eight championship teams in Boston.

Only former teammates Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) can boast more championship bling-bling than Sanders.

And while Russell and Jones' contributions were clearly seen, the role that Sanders played in the Celtics' success often went overlooked by those not donning the Green and White.

"Oh, we knew how valuable he was," Heinsohn said. "When you have all that talent like we did, you don't win unless guys accept their roles. Satch had a role, and he played that role to the best of his ability every night. He meant as much to our success as guys like (Bill) Russell, like Sam Jones, myself. "

At 6-foot-6, Sanders was the Celtics' top perimeter defender, drawing such daunting defensive assignments such as guarding Oscar Robertson or Elgin Baylor.

Sanders said it was former New York Knick forward Mel Hutchins and former Celtic Bill Sharman who made him "really begin to think about playing serious defense."

"He (Hutchins) was so smooth defensively, always in the right place," Sanders told CSNNE.com moments after delivering his acceptance speech. "I thought to myself, 'I sure hope one day I can play like that.'"

Sanders would have days - years, actually - where his defense would be one of the keys to Boston's run atop the NBA.

So while much of the attention back then was paid to the Celtics' bevvy of dynamic players, Sanders' defense was also an important part of the C's championship ways.

But Sanders could score, despite averaging just 9.6 points per game in 916 NBA games.

When the Boston Celtics drafted Sanders with the eighth overall pick in 1960, Sanders knew it would be difficult to score like he did at NYU where he finished his career as the team's all-time second leading scorer.

"I would have liked to have been a scorer, a star and all those kind of things," Sanders said. "But the reality was I had to find a way to fit."

And the best way to fit, was to simply do something that addresses a specific need, like defending at a high level.

"The reality was I had to find a way to make that team," Sanders said. "To make that team, I had to fit that particular role."

The Celtics were already an established NBA power at the time.

Sanders didn't want to do anything to disrupt that.

"One thing I didn't want to do was become the guy that was drafted and that was there, and not have them win," Sanders told CSNNE.com recently. "That was a heck of a burden. And then we kept on winning, and the burden is now on the shoulders of some other rookie's shoulder that comes in."

With the Celtics continuing to dominate the NBA landscape, Sanders steadily grew into more and more of a leadership role.

But as he grew older, wisdom set in.

And as that wisdom led him to look forward to a post-basketball life, it actually brought him back to where his NBA hoops dreams became reality.

A transition program for incoming rookies was unprecedented, and paved the way for other programs to follow that benefit players.

The fruits of that labor can be seen throughout the NBA now, with a number of players like Chauncey Billups recognizing just how valuable Sanders' contributions have been to the game of basketball.

"It's a long time coming," Billups told CSNNE.com. "Everybody knows what he means. He came into league, was active, tried to give these younger guys a voice in what's going on. He's done so many great things beyond the game.

Billups added, "I can only imagine how alone I would have felt and guys like me when they got to the NBA would have felt, if it wasn't for the programs he started."

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

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.