Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic

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30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic


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 Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic by no means would be considered NBA royalty or a perennial juggernaut, but the past five years have literally been the worst in the franchise’s history.
 
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see (now former) GM Rob Hennigan sent on his way.

The players, for the most part, are the same as the ones from a year ago, but the Magic are banking on a more seasoned front-office being exactly what’s needed in order to make those losing ways for so many years, disappear.
 
The Magic brought in Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations and John Hammond as the GM.
 
Both worked together in Detroit as well as Milwaukee, although with the Bucks it was Weltman reporting to Hammond.
 
The two bring more than familiarity to the table, but also a track record of success in building lottery teams into legit playoff contenders.
 
One of the first challenges they will face is trying to make sense out of a roster that on many levels, doesn’t fit in with today’s NBA landscape.
 
Orlando paid big money to land Serge Ibaka after having already signed Bismack Biyombo who joined a front line featuring Nikola Vucevic.
 
Like most of the Orlando roster, the Magic’s Big three big men never meshed on the floor with any kind of consistency.
 
And in their efforts to make it work, it to some degree stunted the growth of promising forward Aaron Gordon, who is one of the more athletic players in the NBA.
 
Still, one thing we know about teams assembled by Hammond is that he loves length, athleticism and versatility.
 
That’s why the Magic didn’t hesitate to go out and sign former San Antonio Spur Jonathan Simmons to a three-year, $20 million contract.
 
Simmons, 28, had a solid season with San Antonio, but really made a name for himself  (and a few dollars along the way) by the job he did at both ends of the floor when Kawhi Leonard was hurt and he had to contend with Houston’s James Harden.
 
No one would put Simmons in the same class as Leonard as far as being a two-way talent, but there was no mistaking how well Simmons held his own against the always-explosive scoring of Harden.
 
And the Magic, which picked sixth in the June NBA draft, once again looked to add a player with tremendous length and versatility in selecting Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac.
 
It was a no-brainer pick for a front office that while in Milwaukee, surprised some in selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo at a time when many felt the Greek Freak would take a number of years before making an impact. And in Hammond’s last draft with the Bucks, he selected Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick.
 
Like previous skinny-as-a-rail picks, Maker showed promise as a rookie that he can, in fact, be an early contributor who can improve with more time and experience which was instrumental in Milwaukee’s steady improvement.
 
But can they replicate that success in Orlando?
 
It remains to be seen but one thing is clear: It’ll be difficult for them to sink any lower than where the franchise was when they assumed their current positions.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento); Mo Speights (Golden State); Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio).
 
Key losses: Jeff Green (Cleveland); Jodie Meeks (Washington)
 
Rookies of note: Jonathan Isaac; Wesley Iwundu.
 
Expectations: 37-45 (Fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the East)
 
 

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

LOS ANGELES – Dropping three in a row and four of five right before the All-Star break, it’s clear the Celtics did not hit the break playing their best basketball.

But they’re not hitting the panic button either, and for good reason.

As disappointing as they may have been leading up to the All-Star break, the Celtics (40-19) still have the second-best record in the East, which is exactly where they were a year ago this time heading out of the break.

And if recent history is any indicator of the future, you can count on the Celtics putting together a surge after the break that, at worst, will keep them close to where they are in the standings.

Now in his fifth season as the Celtics’ coach, Brad Stevens has won at least 16 regular-season games after the break each of the past three seasons.

And that success helped propel Boston to a playoff berth each season and the Celtics’ postseason seeding improving from one year to the next.

After having had the best record in the East for most of this season, the Celtics are once again counting on a strong finish.

It’s one thing for the Celtics to tout their confidence in getting back on track.

But that belief is shared by others as well.

“They're a very good team,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green. “They're young, this is their first year together. Obviously, Kyrie [Irving] is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience. So, it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

Boston is banking on Green’s theory panning out, a theory that will be put to the test considering the Celtics made no moves at the trade deadline other than to sign center Greg Monroe after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

The talk of the league the past couple of weeks has been Cleveland. The Cavs (34-22, third in the East) engineered three trades that radically changed their roster and the likely trajectory of their season.

“It's been a small sample size so far. But just getting some new energy into the locker room and seeing how those guys play out there has been great,” said Cavs forward Kevin Love. “George Hill has stepped into the starting lineup right away; been super solid for us. Rodney Hood gives us a lefty with a lot of game. Kind of has a quiet confidence about him. Larry Nance is a double-double threat every night. He's a guy with a number of teams playing smaller basketball or position-less basketball in the league. He's a guy that can switch on to multiple positions.

Love added: “Jordan Clarkson is a selfless player and kind of has that swagger about him where he doesn't care if he starts, comes off the bench. He can go out there and give you 20 points and help our bench. I believe in our first two games with those guys, we scored over 50 off the bench in both games against two very good teams. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens because we feel like if we get a couple months under our belt playing together. We could be tough.”

The same is true of the Toronto Raptors, who came into the break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, a first for that franchise.

As well as the Raptors (41-16) have played, their coach, Dwane Casey, hesitates to do too much patting on the back right now.

When asked if his team was the best in the East, he replied, “I don't know. The record says we are, but for me to sit here and say we are the best team...we have confidence, but I'm not going to sit here and say we are the best team. Right now, we're number one. The numbers say that.”

The numbers also indicate that the Washington Wizards are another team that’s on the rise these days. They've won seven of their past nine leading up to the break to re-enter the conversation as one of the East’s top teams.

“It’s crazy. It’s wide open,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “We’re all right there, neck-and-neck. Everybody is going to continue to get better. Everyone has 24, 25 games left. They’re going to fly by. It’s definitely going to come down to the playoffs. Anybody can take it.”

And the Celtics will remain among the leaders of that pack, even as they come out of the break struggling to win games.

Green believes more than anything, the Celtics are still figuring out how to handle being a team that’s targeted every night as one of the biggest games on the opposing team’s schedule.

“I think they went from going into the season with Kyrie and Gordon [Hayward] and Al [Horford] kind of expecting to be really good,” Green said. “With young guys like Jaylen [Brown], Jayson Tatum, expected to be really good. Then Gordon went down and then there were no expectations for them. And they completely outplayed that.

Green added, “So, then it's a different thing. Now, all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you and that takes some adjusting to. So, I think they're just adjusting to it, but they'll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season. I think it's just that's what they're going through right now.”

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ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

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ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

The Boston Celtics have massively changed their reputation around the NBA.

Once known as a team which can't land marquee free agents, the Celtics have landed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in consecutive seasons. That seems to support an ESPN poll, which ranks the Celtics as the top recruiting team in the NBA.

Here's what ESPN.com wrote on the poll where they quizzed 48 anonymous players.

Which team have you heard makes the best free-agent pitches?

Celtics: 27 percent
Heat: 15 percent
Lakers: 12 percent
Warriors: 9 percent
Other: 37 percent
Others gaining votes: Clippers, Grizzlies, Hornets, Knicks, Mavericks, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Wizards

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The Celtics prepared a thorough pitch for Kevin Duran before he joined the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 offseason. The pitch included an appearance from Tom Brady. While Durant didn't pick Boston, he praised the team.

"I met with them and they were really good, and I was really impressed by it," Durant said in Nov. 2016, via ESPN.

He wasn't the only one who appreciated the Celtics' pitches.

"Boston [has the best]. If you bring Tom Brady? That's pretty damn cool," an Eastern Conference guard told ESPN.

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