Celtics

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

BOSTON – When it comes to stockpiling talent, few in the NBA have done it better in the past couple of years than the Golden State Warriors, as evidenced by them winning two of the past three NBA championships.
 
In 2015, Andre Iguodala was the NBA Finals MVP but it was the play another reserve, Festus Ezeli, who in the third quarter of the decisive Game 6, scored eight of his 10 points and helped extend a two-point halftime edge into a 12-point lead going into the fourth in what eventually was an eight-point series-clinching victory.

MORE CELTICS

 We have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers make deep playoff runs led by their Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but the contributions of youngsters such as Matt Dellavedova (now in Milwaukee) also helped.
 
Indeed, often lost in the success of title-contending teams is how they manage to have enough max-salaried talent on the roster, while also augmenting the lineup with contributions from younger players or inexpensive veterans on team-friendly contracts.
 
Balancing the best of those two worlds is among the many reasons why the Celtics are considered a legit contender to get to the NBA Finals this season out of the East.
 
A lot has been made of the team’s signing of Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract.

But what really makes the Celtics so special is how they have been able to add a max-salaried player each of the past two seasons (Al Horford and Hayward) at a time when the contributions of Isaiah Thomas ($6.26 million this year) and Jae Crowder ($6.8 million this season) are significant not only in terms of what they do on the floor but even more so in how little they make salary-wise relative to those contributions.
 
Boston getting the most out of talent playing on low-salary deals will be instrumental in their ability to build off the success of last season when the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2012.
 
And while the Warriors have achieved this by adding veterans on the cheap (David West), Boston has been more traditional from the standpoint of getting as much bang as they can from players on their rookie deals.
 
Boston currently has 16 players with guaranteed contracts.
 
Of that total, nine (Marcus Smart; Terry Rozier; Jaylen Brown; Ante Zizic; Abdel Nader; Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye; Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele) are on their rookie contracts.
 
“You always need young guys,” Austin Ainge, the Celtics' director of player personnel, told CSNNE.com. “Your veteran guys make a lot of money and so you need some guys on rookie contracts to fill out your roster.”
 
This is especially true for teams that are in the hunt to win an NBA title.
 
Ainge recalled how the use of players on rookie deals was instrumental in Boston bringing home Banner 17 in 2008.
 
“We had [Rajon] Rondo and Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe and Big Baby [Glen Davis] in 2008,” Ainge said. “You need guys like that. You look at the teams in the finals the past few years, they’ve got some young guys on lower money contracts contributing. That’s important.”

Gordon Hayward offers support to Caris LeVert following gruesome ankle injury

Gordon Hayward offers support to Caris LeVert following gruesome ankle injury

BOSTON – It didn’t take long before footage from Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert’s right ankle injury made its way to Gordon Hayward.

The injury suffered by LeVert on Monday against Minnesota had similarities for many to the season-ending ankle injury suffered by Hayward last year.

“I didn’t see it live,” said Hayward, who has returned to the Celtics lineup this year after missing all of last season following his left ankle/leg injury. “I hate to see that. I heard the timeline (for LeVert’s return) is a little better, but still … he was playing really well. You hate injuries for anybody; it’s tough.”

All things considered, the news is indeed optimistic for LeVert, who is expected to return to the Nets lineup at some point this season.

“Fortunately, tests performed revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” Nets team orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required.”

LeVert, in an attempted chase-down block with 3.7 seconds to play in the first half of Brooklyn’s game against Minnesota, came down hard on his right leg after a collision with Jeff Teague.

He was carted off the court and taken to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.

At the time of his injury, LeVert had 10 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, the kind of stat line that spoke to the kind of breakout season the third-year guard was having.

In 14 games this season, LeVert is averaging 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists – all career highs.

Hayward was among the many to tweet their support for LeVert as he begins the road to recovery.

“For sure, anytime somebody goes through a major injury you feel for them,” Hayward said. “And what I’ve been through, I know first-hand what it’s like.”

For Hayward, having others reach out to him, both athletes and non-athletes, following his injury last year was extremely beneficial in helping keep his spirits up as he began his journey toward getting back on the basketball floor this season.

“The fact that people cared, especially initially,” Hayward said. “Even people who hadn’t gone through an injury, you’re getting like random people that saw the injury took the time to reach out and show support. That meant a lot to me.”

And he’s willing to be there for LeVert if needed.

“If he ever needs to reach out, he knows how to get a hold of me,” Hayward said.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE