Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Is this the last time Cavaliers will rely on LeBron James?

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30 teams in 30 days: Is this the last time Cavaliers will rely on LeBron James?

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Cleveland Cavaliers.

Even though Boston and Cleveland have yet to make their trade official due to Isaiah Thomas’ still-gimpy hip, there’s little reason to believe that this deal will blow up.
 
That’s why if you visit either team’s website, you’ll see Kyrie Irving on the Celtics’ page while Thomas, Jae, Crowder and Ante Zizic are all wearing Cavalier uniforms.
 
Just as the conclusion of this trade has been odd, the fact that the top two teams in the East are involved in such a blockbuster of a trade is just as strange.
 
And because there’s still a glimmer of uncertainty as to the deal getting done, that makes it impossible to gauge what to expect from the Cavs this season.
 
But for argument’s sake, we’re going to work on the premise that the deal will be completed soon because frankly, both teams have been operating of late as though it will get done.
 
It’s all but a given that Isaiah Thomas will not play at the start of the season, so the Cavs will find themselves once again leaning heavily on LeBron James to carry them early on.
 
The upside this season is that James will have some help with the addition of Derrick Rose, a former league MVP who had a solid season last season in New York. Appearing in 64 games, Rose averaged 18.0 points per game, his highest scoring average since 2012. And he did so while shooting 47.1 percent from the field which was his highest mark since 2010.
 
And the addition of Jae Crowder gives Cleveland some defensive versatility that they have lacked in past years, not to mention another catch-and-shoot option for James to play with this season.
 
The trade with Boston was about more than just trying to get something of value for Irving who asked to be traded last month. It was about putting together a roster that could once again compete for a spot in the NBA Finals, which might be enough to convince James to stay beyond this upcoming season.
 
James can opt-out and become a free agent in the summer of 2018, with heavy speculation that he’ll take his talents to Los Angeles and play for the Lakers.
 
However, a strong run with a core group of himself, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Thomas and Crowder along with potentially adding the number one player in a top-heavy draft via the Brooklyn pick Boston sent Cleveland’s way as part of the Irving trade, might be what convinces James to re-up with the Cavs.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Derrick Rose (Chicago); Isaiah Thomas (Boston); Jae Crowder (Boston); Jeff Green (Orlando).
 
Key losses: Kyrie Irving (traded to Boston); Deron Williams (free agent); Derrick Williams (free agent).
 
Rookies of note: Cedi Osman; Ante Zizic.
 
Expectations:
60-22 (First in the Central Division, first-place tie in the East)
 


 

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

MILWAUKEE – With a possible Game 6 return for Marcus Smart, there’s no question that would be a good thing for the Boston Celtics. 

Well, here are six ways having Smart back in the lineup can help aid Boston which is currently tied at two games apiece with the Bucks. 

Defensive versatility: At 6-foot-4 with a strong build, Marcus Smart gives Boston another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the two players who have given the Celtics the biggest problems thus far in this series.

Additional ball-handler: The Milwaukee Bucks have tried to mix up their pressure defensively with an occasional full-court press of the Celtics. Smart is a combo guard who has shown tremendous growth this season as a floor leader with the ability to impact the game both as a scorer and facilitator.

Leadership: As the most tenured member of the roster, Marcus Smart has a high love of respect from his teammates. Not only because of his seniority with the franchise, but also because of the way he plays the game and his teammate’s understanding of how much he means to Boston when it comes to winning.

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Increased roster depth: Injuries devastated the Celtics’ roster heading into the playoffs. So a return of Smart would give Boston 12 healthy bodies. It may not seem like that big a deal. But as we’ve seen with this series, every available body matters when it comes to finding a pathway toward the second round of the playoffs for these teams.

Less pressure on Rozier: The first two games of this series really put a positive spotlight on Terry Rozier. The last two games, both losses for Boston, have featured Rozier struggling at both ends of the floor. Having Smart back would lighten Rozier’s plate some and in doing so, could better position him to be closer to the game-changing, difference-maker we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Playbook expansion: Having Marcus Smart back in the lineup gives head coach Brad Stevens a lot more options at both ends of the floor, which could be just what the Celtics need to limit Milwaukee’s 1-2 punch of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as the Bucks bench which has been the better unit of two, in Games 3 and 4.

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Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

MILWAUKEE – With Boston’s 104-102 Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, the Celtics are guaranteed a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6 later this week.

At that point in the series, both team’s depth will be an issue.

Boston’s depth hasn’t been great, but it potentially could be better if Marcus Smart is cleared to play following a right thumb injury suffered last month.

The 6-foot-4 guard will have a check-up on Tuesday and if he’s cleared to resume practicing with the team, that would pave the way for him to be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday.

“That’s the plan. We’re still on the same track,” Smart said.

Smart has been working diligently with the training staff since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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In the meantime, Smart has been walking around with one type of splint to help insure that he doesn’t accidentally bump his thumb and potentially do damage to it. That splint is different than the one he will play with upon getting cleared to return to action. While the idea of playing with a splint may not seem ideal, Smart said he’s comfortable shooting with it.

Before playoff games 2, 3 and 4 of this series with Boston, Smart has been on the floor prior to the game working on his perimeter shooting, dribble-drive, pull-ups, free throws and pretty much anything he does shooting-wise during a game. Smart has also worked on his conditioning, lateral quickness drills and other work to help strengthen his core, all done with him returning sooner rather than later. 

But ultimately, it is Smart's comfort level with his right hand and the splint that he'll play with, that will determine what kind of impact one can expect once he returns to action. 

“It feels like it’s nothing there,” Smart said of playing with the splint. “To have that comfortability in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Smart, who has distinguished himself as Boston’s top perimeter defender, has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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