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

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

CLEVELAND – Jayson Tatum has seen plenty of games featuring Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And in the Boston Celtics’ preparation for Tuesday night’s matchup, the 19-year-old rookie had seen plenty of James on film.

But facing him, up close and personal, was something entirely different.

“He’s way bigger than I thought,” Tatum said. “He’s way better than I imagined. That’s the reason why he is who he is.”

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James’ play was among the key factors in Cleveland handing Boston a 102-99 loss on Tuesday night.

But Tatum showed he too has some big-time potential by finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds which included some nifty drives to the basket as well as showing the ability to hold his own on the glass in terms of rebounding the basketball.

The last Celtics rookie to post a double-double on opening night?

That was Larry Bird back in 1980, helping the Celtics to a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

What’s even crazier?

Bird had 14 points and 10 rebounds in that Rockets game, too.

Tatum’s solid performance didn’t seem in the making in the first half when Tatum had missed all five of his shot attempts while tallying just two points.

But as the Celtics mounted their comeback, Tatum’s play was a key to the team’s improved play.

“Just being more relaxed” was how Tatum described his improved play in the second half.

Tatum added, “first half, I think I was nervous and anxious. And then the game slowed down for me. That helped out a lot.”

And the Celtics will need even more from Tatum going forward after Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

There was plenty of room for him to improve upon following Tuesday’s game.

But for the most part, head coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw from the rookie.

“Jayson was pretty good,” Stevens said. “He did a pretty good job for a first game. That’s pretty hard to do, to be thrown into this environment, first game and play that well.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE