Celtics

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

blazers-lillard-west-gallery.jpg

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

Brown sees 'big difference' trading in goggles for contacts

Brown sees 'big difference' trading in goggles for contacts

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s recent eye issues led to him wearing goggles, then changing to a different pair, tossing those when they fogged up, only to come back to wearing contacts for Wednesday’s game against Denver.

“It was a big difference,” Brown said of not having to wear the goggles.

It certainly looked that way in his play, with Brown being among the many players on Wednesday to be in a really good rhythm shooting the ball.

And the timing could not have been any better as Boston outlasted the Denver Nuggets 124-118.

MORE:

Brown had 26 points – one shy of tying his career high – on 9-for-12 shooting.

As a team, Boston shot a season-high 59.5 percent from the field.

Ball movement, the sense of urgency to bounce back after a bad loss, trying to fill the void left by not having Al Horford (rest) around … there’s a number of reasons to help explain his impressive shooting night.

But none looms any larger than the fact that he was playing free of any limited vision issues that came up when he played with goggles.

“You take a lot of stuff for granted, and that’s one of them,” said Brown who did wear contacts during the game. “And when your vision is messed up and you try to play through it … I just appreciated being able to see.”

Brown explained the problems he experienced wearing the goggles.

“They were too much in my face,” he said. “I couldn’t see peripheral, and the other ones were just too tight, they kept fogging up. It was just uncomfortable with them, so I thought I was just better off without them. Tonight, I was blessed enough to be able to play with my contacts.”

And now that his vision is no longer an issue, Celtics head coach acknowledged how they can now joke around about the whole situation which began with Brown leaving his contacts in for too long which led to his right eye not being able to open and overall irritation that kept him sidelined for the Dallas game last week.

“We had some laughs in retro-spec,” quipped Stevens. “That’s pretty good; said retro-spec. Been thinking about that all week.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum 'real excited to bounce back'

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum 'real excited to bounce back'

BOSTON – To see Jayson Tatum struggle with his shot the way he did at Chicago was surprising. He’s a 19-year-old rookie, but he has played with a level of consistency and poise that’s just not normal for a player so young.

But the true indicator wasn’t how he struggled, but how would he respond.

Tatum had the kind of bounce-back game the Boston Celtics needed on Wednesday as they held off a hot-shooting Denver Nuggets team 124-118.

Tatum, who had four points on 1-for-7 shooting in Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Monday, had 15 points against the Nuggets while connecting on six of his nine shot attempts.

“I was just real excited to bounce back,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “I was upset the way I played, the way we played. I was eager to get back and get a win.”

Tatum played just under 28 minutes which is a couple minutes below his average, in part because Boston decided to go small and the Nuggets played long stretches with 6-foot-8 Wilson Chandler at small forward and 6-10 Trey Lyles at power forward.

“When you move Chandler to the 3 (small forward) and Lyles to the 4 (power forward), all of a sudden going small doesn’t feel like the best idea in the world,” Stevens said. “Those are tough matchups, so that’s why his minutes were a little down.”

But the change in Tatum’s minutes allowed him to play more with the second unit which was indeed a plus for the Celtics.

“He came in and gave us a good lift and did most of his damage with the second unit,” Stevens said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 124-118 win over the Denver Nuggets.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He returned after missing the Chicago game to rest his sore left quad, and boy did the Celtics need him. The Nuggets made this a much higher-scoring affair than Boston is accustomed to playing, but they were able to more than hold their own and Irving’s play was a big reason why. He led the Celtics with 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting along with seven assists and a pair of blocked shots.

Gary Harris

Denver is a long way from Boston, so folks on this side of the basketball world aren’t familiar with just how good Gary Harris is on the floor.  He was a near-unstoppable force Wednesday night, knocking down 3-pointers along with getting to the rim off the dribble with dunks, lay-ups and a few pull-up jumpers. He led all scorers with 36 points on 16-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Aron Baynes

No Al Horford (rest) meant someone in the frontcourt would be getting a few more shots tonight, and Baynes was up to the challenge. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go with six rebounds. Boston is now 6-1 when the 6-foot-10 center scores in double figures. 

Jaylen Brown

Like most of his teammates, Brown was eager to bounce back from a not-so-great performance at Chicago. He did just that, tallying 26 points on 9-for-12 shooting.

Jamal Murray

The other half of Denver’s starting backcourt, Murray is a spot-on shooter whose playmaking skills are improving with time. He had a double-double of 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists and getting his hands on three steals.

Shane Larkin

His ability to shake things up and provide a spark was on full display against the Nuggets. Larkin was a perfect 6-for-6 shooting and finished with 14 points in just under 18 minutes of court time.

 

DUDS

Celtics rebounding

It seemed no matter how many white-and-green clad jerseys were around the ball, it always seemed to find its way into the hands of a Denver Nuggets player. By the time the final horn had sounded, the Celtics were a -18 on the boards with Denver finishing with 48 total rebounds – just 3 short of the season-high 51 Boston gave up against Orlando on Nov. 24.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE