Celtics

Aron Baynes becoming Mr. Double-Double for the Celtics

Aron Baynes becoming Mr. Double-Double for the Celtics

INDIANAPOLIS -- It took Aron Baynes ten seconds into Friday’s game against Indiana to make his presence felt when he splashed a game-opening 3-pointer.

Forty seconds later, the Pacers were lulled to sleep defensively with Baynes in the corner behind the 3-point line.

But as the Celtics moved the ball from one side to another, Baynes made a beeline for the basket and was spotted by Al Horford who connected with him for a lob dunk. 

Baynes’ stout defense and solid rebounding are important to the Celtics when it comes to winning. 

But the big fella is getting it done offensively as well … and it ain’t just bone-crunching screens, either. 

Baynes’ ability to get buckets provides a different dimension to this Boston Celtics team, a dimension that really challenges teams in how to respond. 

Do you pay more attention to him and run the risk of Kyrie Irving or Al Horford or Gordon Hayward going off, or one of the other Celtics?

Or do you play him with typical minimal attention defensively, and hope that he doesn’t make you pay?

Indeed, Baynes’ becoming more of a scorer has created the kind of conundrum that only adds to the degree of difficulty that Boston presents to any foe they’ll face in the coming days and weeks in the playoffs. 

It stems from Baynes being inserted into the Celtics lineup for the last seven games, a stretch in which Boston has a solid 5-2 record and has seen his playing time spike up significantly which as you might expect, has been a factor in him being more productive statistically. 

In Boston’s 117-97 win over the Pacers, Baynes had 11 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double in the Celtics’ last five games. 

“The guys are finding me in great position,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “It’s a credit to them.”

If anything, Baynes’ teammates are returning the favor when they get the ball in his hands in position to score. 

“You know it makes me feel good out there knowing that you’ve got a big that can come up and set you know, vicious screens, out in transition, get you open and is also rolling to the rim and gives you a threat at the rim.”

In addition to his scoring, Baynes also set a team-best six screen assists which led to 15 points for Boston. 

And defensively he contested a team-high 13 shots from the field. 

“It’s just great when you have rim protection on a defensive end and then on the offensive end you’ve got a big body out there that’s ready to throw it all around.”

And Baynes?

Yeah, the 6-foot-10, 254-pound center is all-in when it comes to playing a physical brand of basketball, the kind of basketball that the Celtics will have to find success against whoever they see in the playoffs. 

“It’s gonna be a fun one; I’m looking forward to it,” Baynes said.

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Kyrie Irving's high school coach sees him going to Knicks

Kyrie Irving's high school coach sees him going to Knicks

BOSTON -- When it comes to Kyrie Irving’s future, it seems everyone has an opinion...including his high school coach. 

Kevin Boyle, Irving’s coach at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., is among those optimistic that the 6-foot-3 guard will sign with the New York Knicks this summer after he becomes a free agent. 

“I think there’s a good chance in my opinion that Kyrie ends up here [in New York],” Boyle told SNY.tv’s Ian Begley, while making it clear that he was speaking as a fan and not someone who knows what Irving’s plans are for next season. “In my gut, I would think that would work best for him and I would think that [the Knicks] have a really strong chance of that happening.”

It would be a mistake to dismiss Boyle’s opinion, especially when you see that he has worked with some of the NBA’s top players when they were in high school. 

In addition to Irving, Boyle has also coached Joel Embiid, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (he was a teammate of Irving’s in high school), D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons as high schoolers.

All of those players, except for Kidd-Gilchrist, have gone on to become an NBA All-Stars. 

This season, the Knicks aggressively went about creating roster vacancies and salary cap space to absorb two, maximum-salaried players in what will be a summer where elite, difference-making talent will be available and that includes Irving. 

Because the Knicks now have a pair of max salary slots, Irving is believed to be one of the primary targets of New York, along with Golden State’s Kevin Durant. 

And the Knicks, owners of the No. 3 pick in the draft next month, are likely to select R.J. Barrett of Duke - another player Boyle has coached.

He tells SNY.tv that pairing Irving and Durant with Barrett might make for better chemistry than the group that Irving played with in Boston this past season. 

"Because they [the Celtics' young players] were starting to get established in the NBA, starting to have a lot of success the year before [without Irving in the playoffs],” Boyle said. “With RJ, he has a great balance with respect and learning. [He'll think], 'Hey, I'm getting better, whether it's [behind] Kyrie or another guy, it's their show right now and I'm learning how to play with him or under them until it's my turn. I think he'll be receptive to that and I think he'll be a perfect complement to those guys."

After arguably his best individual regular season in terms of scoring efficiency and defense, Irving went from difference-maker to a dud in the Celtics' second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, who needed just five games to end Boston’s season. 

Irving had arguably his worst four-game stretch last season in four consecutive losses to Milwaukee.

In those final four games, Irving averaged 19 points while shooting 30.1 percent from the field and 18.1 percent (5-for-27) on 3-pointers, to go with 4.3 assists - all below his season averages. 

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Celtics Exit Interviews: Can Hayward regain his All-Star form?

Celtics Exit Interviews: Can Hayward regain his All-Star form?

2018-19 STATS

11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists. 46.6 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 109.8 Offensive Rating

This was supposed to be the comeback season for Gordon Hayward after missing all but the first five minutes of the 2017-2018 season with an ankle/leg injury. His season was one of both highs and lows, with the latter being more prevalent in the playoffs with his numbers down across the board relative to what he did during the regular season.

ROOM FOR GROWTH CHECKLIST

1. Consistency: There were just too many games, even after his health was no longer an issue, when he would be just out there providing little at either end of the floor. He’s too talented and too important to this team to have too many games like that going forward.

2. Aggressiveness: Part of Hayward’s struggles this past season had to do with him not attacking the ball more, at both ends of the floor. He’s a much better two-way player than what we saw this past season.

3. Focus: Hayward will have a normal offseason where the focus will be on improvement and not just simply getting on the floor, which was the case last summer. With that uncertainty behind him now, look for Hayward to lock in on what he has to do this offseason to improve to where he’s closer to being the All-Star player he was prior to arriving in Boston. 

HIS FUTURE

Hayward just completed the second year of the four-year, $127.8 million contract he signed in 2017. And while the first two years have not gone the way Hayward or the Celtics want, there’s no urgency on Boston’s part to trade him and he seems genuinely happy to be a Celtic. Plus, finding a taker for the remaining $66.8 million he’s owed seems unlikely. That said, all signs — for now at least — point towards Hayward being back in the fold as a Celtic next season. 

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