Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?


Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?

Were a few days into NBA free agency, and all things considered, the Celtics are sitting pretty.

They signed Kevin Garnett. Theyre on the verge of signing Jeff Green. Throw in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley, and short of Danny Ainge acquiring Mad Cow Disease, trading Bradley for Jimmer Fredette and using the entire mid-level on Robert Swift the Celtics are on track to kick off next season with a team thats better than the one that came within a game of the NBA Finals.

Yes, it's good to be a Celtics fan. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, theres one major issue to be addressed: Back-up shooting guard.

A guy who can lead the second unit, mesh with the starters and most importantly: SCORE THE BALL. A guy who can ideally assume the role of a Vinnie Johnson, Manu Ginobili or James Harden (Note: Be on the look-out for any bearded Argentinians nicknamed after an appliance). Who can take Boston to that next level in terms of depth and offensive firepower.

The good news there are plenty of options: Ray Allen. OJ Mayo (whom I refer to as Jerod Mayo at least three times a day. Just a warning in preparation for the time it actually makes it to print). Jamal Crawford. Jason Terry. The Celtics have reportedly reached out to all four.

The bad news none of them are particularly jazzed about Boston.

You know the story with Ray: The Celtics offered him twice the money, but he'll still spend Thursday night toasting with Bron, Wade, Spoelstra and Riles down in South Beach. Crawford would rather take the mid-level from the Clippers (where he can start). Terry looks poised to let the Mavericks match any offer and Mayo straight up doesn't want to play for the C's at least according to reports.

Sure, the chips will eventually fall into place and (hopefully) one of these four guys will find a home in Boston, but the fact remains that no one's tripping over themselves to get here. That each player has an opportunity to become one of the final pieces on a potential contender; to play in front of one of the most passionate fan bases in the country; to play under all the banners and for one of the most respected, player-friendly coaches in the league. Yet it's still a tough sell.

And once again, we're left to wonder: Why don't free agents want to play for the Celtics?

We can throw Ray Allen out of the conversation, because that's a special situation, but honestly: Why wouldn't Jamal Crawford or OJ Mayo jump at the chance to join this crew? Why did Chris Paul reportedly refuse to sign an extension in Boston? Why, despite all the Dwight Howard rumors of the past two years, were the Celtics never considered a legit destination for the game's biggest center? (Related story: I ran into Jameer Nelson at a bar in Boston last summer while he was in town shooting stuff for Reebok. At one point, I asked him: "Hey, so what are the chances Dwight ends up here?" He literally laughed in my face, before saying: "Nah, no way he's coming here.")

You can talk about the weather, but Boston's not much colder than Brooklyn or Manhattan. You can say it's a race thing, but the way Kevin Garnett has embraced and loves this city should be enough to help curb that reputation. You can't use the "Celtics are old and past their prime" excuse anymore because, like I said, they're over that, they've adjusted. For the next two seasons, short of devastating injury, the Celtics will be right up there with any team outside of Miami and OKC. They're contenders.

So, then what's the problem with Boston?

Here's one theory:

It's not that these free agents hate the city. Or the weather. Or the team's championship potential. Nope.

They hate the Celtics.

Players in today's NBA hate the Boston Celtics.

Of course, this isn't exactly breaking news. Over the last five years, the Celtics have antagonized just about every team in the league. There's barely a young superstar who Boston hasn't somehow offended. In many ways, it's been one of the Celtics best weapons their ability to get under an opponent's skin. But after a half decade of chaos, the result is a league that isn't too found of green. An entire generation of NBA players who have grown to hate the C's.

And don't you think it's possible that this has trickled into free agency?

Is it really a coincidence that since 2007, the Celtics four biggest free agent signings James Posey, Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq were all older players from another generation, who befriended the Big 3 before they were the Big 3? I don't think so.

What's funny is that it seems to be a perception problem more than anything. After all, the guys who are traded here love it: Jeff Green was traded here and he wants to stay. Brandon Bass was traded here and he wants to stay. Keyon Dooling was traded here, and from the sound of things, it changed his life. When the guys are forced to join the dark side, they always realize that it's not so dark.

But when given the choice, free agents continue to shy away from the Boston Celtics.

Hopefully we won't have to wait another generation before that starts to change.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks


WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.


He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”