OFFSEASON

Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

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Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

NEW YORK So if the NBA Players Association decides to accept the latest take-it-or-it'll-get-worse ultimatum from the NBA, we'll have a 72-game season that begins on Dec. 15.

One word for the Celtics:

Yikes!

The last thing an aging team like the Celtics wants is a shortened training camp, a frenzied free-agency period with at least seven new faces to the lineup, and a regular-season schedule that features 10 fewer games packed into a tighter time frame.

The biggest fear with this kind of schedule has to be injuries.

When you look at the Celtics' Big Four (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo), you have to be concerned about whether they'll be able to withstand the rigors of a compressed schedule that is sure to feature a couple of back-to-back-to-back sets of games.

The C's have to be especially careful in handling Garnett, who even at 35 years old, is one of the NBA's better big-man defenders. He's on the downside of his career -- I know, shocker -- and is more susceptible to injuries in part because of his age and the fact that he has played so many minutes throughout his career.

Look no further than the fact that he has missed at least 11 regular-season games every year he's been with the Celtics. When he was in Minnesota, KG missed no more than six contests in a given season.

But the show of injuries among the Big Four isn't just a KG production. Collectively, Boston's Big Four missed a total of 29 regular-season games this past season.

Only once (2008-09) did they combine to miss more regular-season games. And that was primarily because KG was out for 25 games and the playoffs.

Even if the C's managed to stay relatively healthy, there lies another potential issue -- chemistry.

We saw at times how challenging it was for some of the Celtics' new faces to immerse themselves with the core group. If you have a shortened training camp, little to no preseason and you're playing games in a relatively tight window of time, developing on-court chemistry won't be easy.

We saw the problems that Jeff Green had last season when he arrived to Boston in a trade with Oklahoma City.

We saw the struggles Von Wafer had . . . and Nenad Krstic . . . and Nate Robinson. You get the picture.

And making matters even tougher for the Celtics is that even when they map out the areas in need of improvement, there won't be much time to work on those aspects of play because there won't be a lot of practice time.

Execution, along with chemistry, will have to be honed, literally, on the fly as the season progresses.

But who knows, Danny Ainge could hit the free agency jackpot and land all of his primary targets. The gelling process could happen very quickly. If that happend, the C's could once again one of the last teams standing in the NBA.

As KG reminds us, "Anything's possible!"

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA