Celtics

Smart focused on preparing for season, not a potential payday

Smart focused on preparing for season, not a potential payday

WALTHAM, Mass. – The amount of money players have been hauling in recently in the NBA has not gone unnoticed by Marcus Smart who is eligible for a contract extension.

Knowing his situation and the potential payday he could be in line for if a deal can be agreed upon by October 16, the fourth-year guard says his focus right now is one thing – preparing for this upcoming season with the Boston Celtics.

“I haven’t put any thought into that right now,” Smart said. “My main focus is to come out here and get ready for the season. We’ll handle that when it comes; control what we can control.”

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This will be the third straight year the Celtics will have a player they drafted who is eligible for a contract extension off of their rookie deal.

In the two previous instances (Jared Sullinger in 2015 and Kelly Olynyk in 2016), the players did not get a new deal done and ultimately became restricted free agents before having their respective qualifying offers rescinded by Boston which then allowed them to become unrestricted free agents.

Sullinger wound up signing a one-year, $6 million deal with Toronto while Olynyk agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Miami Heat this past summer.

Where Smart falls money-wise with the Celtics is unclear, but there’s no question Smart will land a multi-year, eight-figure payday whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

Taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, it has been slow motion for players in his draft class to get extensions completed.

The top overall pick in 2013, Andrew Wiggins, is reportedly close to getting a five-year, $148 million extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Phoenix forward T.J. Warren, selected with the 14th overall pick by the Suns in 2013, has agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract.

Some of the bigger names eligible for extensions include Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Utah’s Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

Smart acknowledged that his camp has had conversations with the Celtics about an extension, but there hasn’t been dialogue that has gone back and forth on a daily or regular basis.

“My main focus is getting ready for this season and everything else will handle itself,” Smart said.

That said, Smart can’t help but notice the ginormous contracts some of his fellow NBA players are landing with the most recent eye-catcher being the five-year, $205 million extension Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook signed on Sept. 29 which just so happened to be the birthday of his ex-teammate Kevin Durant (read into that what you want to).

“It’s huge; it’s crazy,” Smart said of the massive contracts. “Those guys definitely deserve it. But like I said, that’s not my focus. I can’t control what those guys are getting. I can only control what I can control.”

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Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics got the win over Memphis, with the team’s second unit chipping in for the victory.

But they still have too many offensive lulls, something head coach Brad Stevens recognizes and to his credit, is continuing to search for ways to address appropriately.

We’ve seen him utilize a starter playing with the backups.

But in Saturday’s 102-93 win at Memphis, Stevens elected to play a pair of starters with the second unit for longer stretches which on this night at least, helped them get the victory to extend their East-leading record to 25-7.

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In fact, Boston had at least two starters on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but the final 28.4 seconds of play.

“It’s one of those things, it’s probably going to go back and forth,” Stevens said. “Based on who’s available.”

A key missing part of the Celtics’ bench rotation is Marcus Morris who continues with rehab on his sore left knee.

Morris, who did not make the trip with the team, is out indefinitely although the Celtics maintain that he’s close to resuming action.

Stevens was asked about his use of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford together, with a trio of reserves.

“If Marcus Morris is here, maybe you don’t play either of them with that group,” Stevens said.

Morris has appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the Celtics this season, averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Indeed, bench production has been an issue for the Boston Celtics all season.

According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench came into tonight’s game averaging 30.5 points per game which ranked 23rd in the NBA. However, Boston’s defense has limited second units to 32.6 points per game which ranks 8th in the league.

Against the Grizzlies, Boston only had three players off the bench score (Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis) who combined for 26 points.

But as limited as they were scoring the ball, Memphis was even worse with a second unit scoring total of just 15 points.

Of course, rotations are a season-long, always-evolving process that is dependent heavily on not just who is available, but how those who are available to play are performing.

The Celtics’ second unit has had their moments this season, but by and large the team’s success has been heavily fueled by the play of the starters.

Stevens has made it clear, he’ll continue to find ways for those guys to be put in the best positions to succeed individually as well as for the Celtics.

And as long as Morris remains out, you can expect Stevens will continue to find ways to fill that void with increased usage from his starters.

“As long as Marcus Morris isn’t playing,” Stevens said, “We need to be alert to that and guys are going to have to play different rotations.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Win or lose, strong play or a night full of struggles, Jayson Tatum’s demeanor seldom changes for the Boston Celtics.

That alone makes him a rather unique rookie.

But then you see him play and have nights like the one he had against Memphis tonight, and you realize why this 19-year-old kid is so cool, calm and collected all the time.

There’s still a lot for him to learn about this league, but his talent, skill and feel for the game is uncanny . . . which against the Grizzlies, helped Boston pull away in the fourth quarter for a 102-93 win.

Tatum had a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds with seven points in the fourth, but a deeper dive is required to fully appreciate what he meant to the Celtics on Saturday and what his true value is for this team this season.

“I was trying to be in attack mode, get what the defense was giving me,” Tatum said. “Just trying to bounce back from (Friday’s 107-95 loss to Utah).”

His scoring, rebounding, defense and overall impact was as good as we’ve seen from him this season, a radically different showing than Friday night’s 7-point performance which included him missing six of his seven shot attempts.

“He does a great job of having short-term memory,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Even in games, he might start a little slow and then he’ll pick it up. That’s a strength of his that’s very rare for a rookie. A lot of times, with rookies, when things don’t go their way, you can’t count on them. With him, it’s the opposite.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-93 win at Memphis.

 

STARS

Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies gave the Celtics all they could handle, and Gasol had a lot to do with it. He led all players with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Jayson Tatum

There were others who had more points than the 19-year-old, but Tatum was clutch when the Celtics really needed someone to step up. He finished with 19 points which included seven in the fourth quarter, along with grabbing nine rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

Once again, the Celtics’ scoring attack was led by Kyrie Irving who had a quiet 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with six assists.

Al Horford

While his ability to facilitate remains a strength, Al Horford came up with some big shots in the second half as the Grizzlies tried to rally back into the game. He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Daniel Theis

Playing with a broken nose and an off-the-shelf mask to protect it (he’ll get a fitted one soon), Theis had five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes while playing good defense and providing some much-needed energy.

Tyreke Evans

The former rookie of the year has made an amazing transformation into a reliable 3-point shooter. That was just part of what was a really strong game from Tyreke Evans who had 25 points.  

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-quarter play

For the second straight game, the Celtics were at their worst in the second quarter. Fortunately for them, it didn’t cost them the game as was the case on Friday night against Utah. The Celtics were fortunate to only be out-scored 28-17 which allowed them to maintain a 48-40 lead.

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