Celtics

Blakely: Ainge's latest trade will test 'In Danny we trust' motto

Blakely: Ainge's latest trade will test 'In Danny we trust' motto

BOSTON -- When word quickly spread that the Boston Celtics were serious about trading away the top overall pick to Philadelphia, there was sense among Celtics Nation that Danny Ainge was about to pull another fast one.

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After all, who can forget the 2013 fleecing of the Brooklyn Nets, which is still paying dividends to the Celtics like the top overall pick in Thursday’s draft?

But as the details began to spill out as to what the Celtics were getting for the top overall pick -- the No. 3 selection in Thursday’s draft and either a future first-round pick in 2018 (if the pick falls between 2 and 5 overall) from the Los Angeles Lakers, or a 2019 pick from the Sacramento Kings -- it seemed a bit underwhelming. 

That’s because when it comes to the Celtics and doing deals, fans around here have become spoiled to Danny Ainge coming out ahead most of the time. 

More than anything else, this deal forces fans to truly believe in Ainge’s visionary approach to building this team into a title contender. 

On the surface, it feels as though the Celtics passed on a likely future All-Star caliber player in Markelle Fultz, who will play in the same division and potentially haunt Boston for the next decade or so.

But this isn't about whether the Celtics got too much or not enough. 

It's about “In Danny We Trust."

Because unlike past trades Ainge has engineered, he's never done made one with the top overall pick in hand. And because of that, the support that he has had for so long will be tested in aways it never has before. 

Whether you are a die-hard Celtics or just a casual NBA observer, there’s no getting around the impact Ainge has had on this franchise since becoming its president of basketball operations. 

In just four years, he shipped out many of the team’s big-name core players (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo) and replaced them with good but lesser-known talent whose collective efforts got the Celtics into this season's Eastern Conference Finals, where they were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. 

But as Ainge went about collecting assets in recent years, one thing became quite certain:

No matter how many first-round picks you have, if they're not in the top five or so it’s not easy to entice teams to strike a deal.

Middle to late first-round picks do little to move the needle and, thus, are hard to move. 

But as we saw on Saturday, having the top pick in the draft is indeed a game-changer. 

Depending on what the Lakers do with the No. 2 pick, the Celtics are expected to choose from a trio of players -- Josh Jackson of Kansas, Jayson Tatum of Duke or Lonzo Ball of UCLA.

None of the players has been to Boston for a workout, but the Celtics did see Tatum during a workout earlier this month in Los Angeles. Both Jackson and Ball declined earlier workout requests from the Celtics.

With Fultz slated to go number one overall to Philadelphia, both Jackson and Ball might have a change of heart leading up to Thursday’s draft. 

It remains to be seen if Celtics Nation will have a similar change emotionally after Ainge decided to use the top overall pick to get an additional draft pick rather than use the pick for a player to keep. 

Only time will tell if Ainge got this one right or screwed up royally which will bring out the best and worst of Celtics Nation who for now, seem divided on this trade which has forced them to do what they’ve done for years -- trust that Ainge has done the right thing by this franchise for the present as well as the not-so-distant future.

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

BOSTON –  Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule. 

Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return. 

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

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It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play. 

The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint. 

During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece. 

You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold. 

“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”

Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart. 

“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”

Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON -- The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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