Celtics-Blazers preview: Evan Turner returns to TD Garden


Celtics-Blazers preview: Evan Turner returns to TD Garden

BOSTON -- Brad Stevens and a small contingent of Boston Celtics players and front-office officials were headed to Atlanta to meet with Al Horford when Stevens got the news.

Evan Turner, a player that Stevens had grown quite fond of during Turner’s two seasons with the Celtics, was going to sign a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The first person Turner said he called after he got the offer was his mother.

“I told her I’m probably going to sign for $70 (million),” Turner told me during the latest edition of the CSN CelticsTalk Podcast earlier this week. “She was like, 17? I was like, 'no, 70.' And she was like, '17?' I said, 'no, like 70. The number after 69.'”

Considering the amount of money the Blazers were throwing his way after he made $3.4 million last season with the Celtics, Turner, who returns to the TD Garden tonight, understood why his mother was in such disbelief at the amount of money he was telling her he was being offered.

“The whole number … we were baffled by it,” Turner said. “Even signing the deal, seeing how it was broken down and how much I would make per year, this is … I still try to live in the moment and see how blessed I am, so that was crazy to see ... wow, this is crazy.”

For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, the news that Turner was going to sign with the Blazers was one of mixed emotions.

“Your heart sinks a little bit because you don’t want to lose him,” Stevens recalled. “But then you’re like, ‘what a cool thing for him,’ that contract to happen.”

Drafted by Philadelphia with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Turner never lived up to the expectations the Sixers had for him and when they traded him to Indiana, things didn’t get any better.

But in Boston, Turner thrived in his role as a do-it-all playmaker who was at his best in the fourth quarter primarily as a facilitator. 

Among players who logged as many minutes or more than Turner’s 8.9 in the fourth, only New Orleans’ Jru Holiday (1.8) and Houston’s James Harden (1.7) had a higher assists per game average in the fourth than Turner (1.5).

So tonight he returns to a place where his career as well as the Celtics' fortunes took a major step in the right direction.

In his two seasons with the Celtics, Turner became an integral part of them getting to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

“Evan did a great job of representing what we wanted out of our guys,” Stevens said. “He had a great passion for the game, worked really hard to get better. He didn’t care with regard to starting, coming off the bench. He just wanted to help the team in any way that he could. Everybody valued him as a great teammate (who) made us better.”

Stevens has had a great relationship with most of the players, but it’s clear that there's a different kind of bond he has with Turner.

Like when Stevens talks about Turner supposedly trying to reach him around the time he decided to sign with Portland.  

“He says he tried to call me on the plane but I don’t believe him,” said Stevens, grinning. “You (media) guys believe everything he says. Believe it or not, I don’t.

Stevens added, still grinning, “I love that guy; I love that guy. What was cool, he texted my 10-year-old son (Brady) a long text and said, ‘this is why I’m going’ … great guy, has a great heart. After that he didn’t need to call me.”

With Boston having its sights on signing Horford and potentially Kevin Durant this past summer, both sides knew that this basketball marriage between the Celtics and Turner, no matter how much both sides loved one another, was ending soon.

“I really liked the city; a great sports city,” Turner said. “I don’t take for granted putting on a Celtics jersey; that was dope. There’s franchises and there’s organizations. The Celtics have a franchise. Their culture … we had a tight-knit team. I really miss that. In the NBA, that’s hard to come by. We all genuinely wanted each other to do well. I didn’t take that for granted; we had a special bond there.”

Isaiah Thomas said he still talks with Turner every few days since he signed with Portland.

“Evan’s a good basketball player, but an even better person,” Thomas said. “He was always positive, always had something to say; not in a bad way. He stayed on everybody. He kept the locker room together. He was a big piece that we miss. He did more than produce on the basketball floor.”

And Thomas was one of the first to learn about Turner’s deal with the Blazers.

“I was happy for him, because for a guy like that, he deserves it,” Thomas said. “From being on top, back to the bottom and just keep pushing; that’s the definition of somebody that just keeps grinding and is a positive person.”

And that positive energy at times included jokes at Stevens' expense. 

Like last season when Turner told the media that Stevens was so mad at the players, he refused them snacks on the team plane.

“I always laugh,” Stevens said.“I had to tell him, ‘I remember the plane food thing.’ I looked at him when he walked on the plane and said, ‘You know I didn’t say that. Now I’m gonna have to answer that tomorrow.’ But maybe he had conjured it up in his mind. I wasn’t happy at halftime but I didn’t say I was going to hold the food back.”

Exaggerated truth or not, it’s clear talking with Stevens and the Celtics who played with him that Turner is someone they miss, not only because of what he did as a player but also because of who he is as a person.

“He’s a great teammate,” Stevens said. “We’re really happy for him. He did a lot of good things for us, too. Again, more important than any numbers he put up or how he played on either end of the floor, he added to the passion in the work environment. That’s something you can’t take for granted in an 82-game season.”

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.