Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Less payroll, more wins for Blazers?

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30 teams in 30 days: Less payroll, more wins for Blazers?

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 Portland Trail Blazers

BOSTON – “You get a contract, you get a contract, and you get a contract” seemed to be a recurring theme last summer in Portland as they bolstered their roster with a number of big-money deals to both their own free agents as well as those who played with other teams.

But those moves didn’t quite work out as planned with the Blazers (41-41) squeaking into the postseason as the eighth and final seed which led to them being a basketball hors-d'oeuvre for Golden State during the Warriors’ run towards a second NBA title in the last three years.

To read A. Sherrod Blakely's 2017-18 team-by-team NBA previews, click here.  ​​

The Blazers still have high hopes, but it’s clear that they see less – as in payroll – is more in their quest to build off of last season’s strong regular season finish which included them winning 12 of their last 16 games.

Portland shipped out Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn for Andrew Nicholson (who has since been waived), with the Nets taking on the remaining three years of the four-year, $74.8 million contract Crabbe signed last summer.

Not only did it ease the financial hit Portland was slated to take, but it also eased some of the roster congestion with a number of perimeter players who on many levels, seemed to replicate one another rather than compliment one another's game. 

And the addition of big man Jusuf Nurkic during the middle of the season provided a major boost to the Blazers roster, and gives them what they desperately needed – a big man who can impact the game scoring the ball and on the glass.

However, a broken leg injury kept him out of 10 of Portland’s last 11 games.

Prior to that, he had a double-double scoring and rebounding the ball in six of the Blazer’s previous seven games.

The Blazers envision a Big Three of their own consisting of all-star Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and  Nurkic.

Beyond that Big Three, the Blazers have a slew of solid but not spectacular role players such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Myers Leonard and Mo Harkless who averaged 10.0 points per game last season while shooting a career-high 50.3 percent from the field.

There’s a lot to like about this Blazers roster. But when you look the Northwest Division, Portland will have one of the tougher roads around getting to the postseason for what would be a fifth straight season.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: None.

Key losses: Allen Crabbe (Brooklyn).

Rookies of note: Zach Collins; Caleb Swanigan.

Expectations: 45-37 (5th in the Northwest Division, 9th in the West).

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

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All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."