OFFSEASON

Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

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Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Last season, the Boston Celtics adopted a philosophy of giving players "strategic rest" throughout the season.

Well, it appears that may very well be the case with Shaquille O'Neal and his assortment of right leg injuries.

O'Neal has missed Boston's last 13 games with either a right Achilles tendon or right foot injury.

On Monday, O'Neal said both injuries are bothering him.

But of the two, the Achilles Tendon injury is the one of greater concern.

"It gets better than comes back, it gets better than comes back," O'Neal said. "But Dr. Brian McKeon has done a great job, been working on it twice a day, so I'll be back."

He told reporters on Monday that he's "about 85 percent" healthy, but added his time off the court has been due to the Celtics coaches and medical staff wanting him to be at full strength before returning.

"I would have liked to be out there with the guys on Sunday at Milwaukee, but they wanted me back 100 percent," O'Neal said. "I tried to run the other day and it felt really good, but I had to take a step back so hopefully in a few days, or in a week or so, I'll be back."

In other words, O'Neal - much like the C's coaching staff and medical staff - don't have a definitive timetable for his return to the lineup.

While the C's are certainly a better team with O'Neal in the lineup, there are benefits to him sitting out a few more games.

Boston essentially got rid of a third of its roster within the last two weeks, so there's a lot of teaching going on right now.

Without O'Neal in the rotation, this allows some of Boston's new big men, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy specifically, a chance to play meaningful minutes to better enhance their familiarity with their new teammates.

"You know they looked pretty good," O'Neal said of the newest Celtics. "They looked comfortable. Doc's done a great job of getting them in and getting them out. It's kind of a new team. From here on in, it's important that everyone gets in and we get our rhythm going into the postseason."

Of all the newcomers, Krstic, who starts at center in place of O'Neal, has made the greatest impact.

In five games as the C's starting center - all Celtics wins - Krstic is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Still, he understands that his play - much like the rest of the Celtics newcomers - is a work in progess.

"Still adjusting," he told CSNNE.com. "Everything is new for me. It's . . . everybody is helpful. Everybody is trying to help. Still, it's hard to make that transition; just trying to do my best on the court, give 100 percent when I play."

It remains to be seen what Krstic's role will be when O'Neal returns.

Because by all indications, O'Neal will come back as the starting center.

His impact with the Celtics goes beyond his meager numbers - 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Because O'Neal draws so much attention when he's on the floor, that has allowed Boston shooters such as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen better looks at the basket.

With better looks, both Pierce and Allen are enjoying career seasons shooting the ball from the field and 3-point range, respectively.

Despite the injuries, O'Neal said his focus now isn't any different than it was from Day One.

"We're all here for 18-25," said O'Neal, referring to Banner 18 for the C's, championship number '2' for the Big Three and title number '5' for himself.

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.