Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

BOSTON – The bewitching hour is nearly upon us when the Celtics can get down to the business of bolstering a roster that has shown tangible growth (read: more wins, baby!) every year under Brad Stevens.
The free agency period begins at the stroke of midnight tonight - the first shot Danny Ainge and company will get to make a case to free agents Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Dwight Howard.
Boston is one of six teams that Durant will meet with, so a decision by Durant isn’t expected immediately.
That may not be the case for Horford and Howard, who are among the most coveted free agents available and will likely get multi-year, near-max offers quickly.
In the past, Boston has added players that were targeted via free agency because they fit a very clear and well-defined role.
Boston wanted to add a rim-protector last summer, so they went out and signed Amir Johnson.
It certainly didn’t bring about the kind of “fireworks” Celtics fans were hoping for, but Johnson did prove to be a solid addition in helping Boston win 48 regular season games – the most under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
This summer is different.
The Celtics have to do more than just add a nice rotation player to the mix.
They need a stud; pure and simple.
They need to add a player who immediately comes in as a starter who can help jump-start Boston’s quest to become one of the game’s elite teams again.
Adding such a player is easier said than done, obviously.
And making it even more difficult now is, unlike past off-seasons when only a handful of teams came into free agency with fat pockets like Boston (they can potentially add two max-salary players), the league’s new TV deal kicks in this summer and has created a much larger field of financial fat cats.
With money not being as big a difference-maker now, decisions by players will likely come down to opportunity to play and comfort level with an organization.
And that is a good thing for the Celtics.
Getting  coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Ainge signed to long-term extensions was about more than just continuity within the organization.
It also sent a strong message to potential free agents that the guys you are negotiating with now, aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
And with Stevens at the helm, a number of players have come through Boston and left better for the experience, basketball-wise and financially.
Evan Turner came to Boston two years ago as a player many dubbed as a bust. He leaves as one of the game’s most versatile perimeter players who will land a salary that will more than triple the $3.4 million he made last season.
It is that quality that may convince Dwight Howard to sign with Boston. You will be hard-pressed to find a player as heavily criticized as Howard (much of which he has brought upon himself) who can still play at a fairly high level.
Last season was one of his worst in the NBA and he still averaged a double-double of 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game along with 1.6 blocked shots.
Getting him back to being one of the league’s elite centers would be the greatest reclamation success story ever for Stevens and would provide Boston with an impact free agent, a sight seldom (if ever) seen donning a Celtics jersey.

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.