Celtics

Kraft on money management: 'Sometimes our fans get upset'

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Kraft on money management: 'Sometimes our fans get upset'

Robert Kraft was up bright an early for a Friday appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box". The Patriots chairman and CEO was joined by guest host Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans.

Kraft was his congenial self, first congratulating McNair on Houston's 2011 playoff run.

"We play you up in New England this season," the Texans owner teased, "and I don't think you'll be as gracious up there as you are now."

Houston will be without one of the best defensive lineman in the league, Mario Williams, for that 2012 tilt after relinquishing his talents to Buffalo.

McNair said it was tough to lose a key contributor like Williams. But that's business.

"What you're seeing happen is that there are a few stars around the league that are going to get a lot of money, and with a salary cap, that just means that there's less money to go around for the rest of the other players," he said.

"I think what this will do ultimately with the new CBA, which Bob Kraft helped on that tremendously, I think what it's going to do, it's going to allow the teams that are in the lower quartile an opportunity to move up faster because with the new rookie salary pool, less money is going to go to rookies. So those teams at the lower level are not penalized with the higher draft pick which would have cost them a lot of money. Now they have more money available to go out and sign other free agents and there will be good free agents out there that won't command the 96 million contracts."

Kraft was nodding in agreement.

Patriots fans -- connected via the emotional rather than financial aspect of the game -- are anxious about New England's perceived free agency failure. Williams was on the wishlist of many, despite how big a price tag he was expected to have. As each offseason hour passes, more big-name free agents re-sign, are traded, or strike agreements elsewhere -- everywhere other than New England, it seems. The team has instead brought in Steve Gregory, Marcus Harrison, and Jonathan Fanene; re-upped Dan Connolly and Matthew Slater.

Fan unrest over the lack of a sexy signing continues to grow, and it's not gone unnoticed by Kraft.

But, again, it's business.

"Bob makes a good point," he said in response to McNair. "When Mario -- and I don't know whether he was paying him 4 million 9 million -- but the point is when someone goes out and pays him 15 million if you paid him that, your team doesn't get better when you do that. I would say your team maybe gets worse because you have less money available for other players.

"And only your personnel people understand the chemistry of how that works. Sometimes our fans get upset. We're faced with a couple decisions like that, too. Both you and I want to see our teams win. It's how we manage the resources available to us that allows us to do that."

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“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.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”