Celtics

Celtics gain roster flexibility in shedding Guerschon Yabusele

Celtics gain roster flexibility in shedding Guerschon Yabusele

The Guerschon Yabusele era, revered for its throwback velour tracksuits and bow-and-arrow slinging post-3-point celebrations, ended Wednesday when the Boston Celtics waived the 23-year-old big man.

The Celtics are on the hook for his $3.1 million salary and are essentially signaling that they see a greater value in an open roster spot than waiting for Yabusele to become an in-season trade asset.

Boston has some flexibility now to maneuver in advance of training camp. The team can use its open spot to ensure summer league celebrity Tacko Fall stays on their roster, though there’s no rush to do such until rival teams begin inquiring about his availability. The Celtics planned to sign second-round pick Tremont Waters and undrafted Max Strus to their pair of available two-way deals but could also elevate one of those players to Yabusele’s roster spot if they preferred to make Fall a two-way player.

The Celtics might be content to patiently examine potential trade possibilities with a goal of adding more proven talent, the open roster spot allowing the acquisition of an additional player should the team need that spot in an uneven swap.

It felt like Yabusele was playing for his roster spot heading into summer league. Even with the Celtics thin on bigs with the departures of Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris, the team’s burst of offseason signings — Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Vince Poirier — combined with the drafting of Grant Williams hinted that the jury was still very much out on whether Yabusele could be a contributor.

A subpar start to Vegas summer league spelled Yabusele’s demise. Pressing or not, he had a dismal summer debut then dislocated his pinkie finger diving for a loose ball in Ggame 2. Yabusele never showed the confidence and poise of a player in his third summer league and the lack of encouraging signs made the choice to move on a bit easier.

The natural tendency when a team lets go of a disappointing first-round pick is to point at all the players they missed on that were drafted after him. Scream and yell about the likes of Caris LeVert all you’d like, but the Celtics had prioritized players with draft-and-stash potential after nabbing Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in the 2016 draft. That made Yabusele and Ante Zizic that much more attractive at spots Nos. 16 and 23.

What you can lament is how the Celtics at least utilized Zizic as part of the trade package that brought back All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are moving on from Yabusele and eating his money assuming no one picks him up on waivers (which seems unlikely when he would be a minimum-salary pickup after the fact).

In cutting Yabusele loose now, the Celtics give him a chance to find an opportunity elsewhere in advance of training camp. His locker room presence will be missed as teammates genuinely liked Yabusele's fun-loving nature. But Boston can use his spot to find a far more impactful player (or at least one they can try to develop to be such).

The Celtics are still well below the tax line so they can afford to eat the money without fear of the big-spender penalties. If they elected to stretch Yabusele’s money out over multiple seasons, it might afford them some extra money to negotiate a deal with second-round picks like Carsen Edwards and Waters, who the team could lock up for longer than what they could otherwise on minimum deals.

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Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game

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USA TODAY Sports

Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game

A young fan was able to experience the excitement of dunking a basketball with a little assistance from Tacko Fall.

The Boston Celtics center, who stands at 7-foot-6, was in attendance for Tuesday night's WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks. During a break in the action, he picked up a small child and helped it dunk on a regulation-sized hoop.

Check out the special moment in the video below:

Celtics rookie Tremont Waters and assistant coach Kara Lawson also joined Fall to watch the Sun.

Fall played four seasons at the University of Central Florida and went undrafted earlier this year. He signed with the Celtics to play on their Las Vegas NBA Summer League team and performed well enough to earn an invitation to training camp, where he'll compete for one of Boston's final roster spots.

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Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Celtics big man Enes Kanter spent Tuesday morning working out with old friend Gordon Hayward and offered his assessment of Hayward’s progress now nearly two years removed from the gruesome ankle injury in Cleveland.

“Gordon Hayward — I think he should definitely start eyeing the All-Star Game,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston on the Celtics Talk Podcast. “He had a very bad injury [but] I see his work ethic, he’s been doing an amazing job.

"I just actually played against him [Tuesday morning] and he looked amazing. Very good shape, lot of confidence, and he is comfortable out here.”

Kanter is the latest member of the Celtics organization to hop on a Hayward hype train that rumbled throughout the summer. Kanter’s assessment carries a bit more heft if only because the two players were teammates together for three-plus seasons in Utah and Kanter had a front-row seat for Hayward’s ascent to becoming an NBA All-Star in 2016-17.

"I played with that dude three and a half years with Utah Jazz. I know the guy, I know how hard he works, how much he is willing to learn, and he makes his teammates better,” said Kanter. "I’m very excited about him. He should definitely be eyeing the All-Star Game.”  

Hayward showed flashes of his pre-injury form late in the 2018-19 season but never quite harnessed it consistently. He was fantastic for much of Boston’s first-round sweep of Indiana to open the playoffs then struggled against the Bucks as the Celtics were eliminated in five games in the East semifinals.

Hayward spent nearly all of his summer in Boston and worked out most mornings with the team’s coaching staff at the Auerbach Center. Coach Brad Stevens has lauded Hayward for setting a tone that left many Celtics players spending extended time at the practice facility this summer.

Kanter, even as he’s toured the country putting on 49 youth camps (his 50th and final occurs in Boston later this month), has checked in regularly and has seen Hayward’s progress.

"He’s been here all summer,” said Kanter. “[Hayward] puts the work in, [he] focused on what he needed to focus on. Like I said, again, obviously he’s a really really good basketball player but the confidence, with that injury -- I think last year was a little rough for him but I think this year, man, I see him, he looks strong, he looks in really good shape, and he’s enjoying his time here.”

The Celtics signed Kanter to a two-year, $10 million contract this summer as they look to help patch a frontcourt void left by the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Kanter, who averaged 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason run to the Western Conference finals, projects as Boston’s starting 5 but the Celtics could lean heavily on a committee of big men including Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, Vincent Poirier, and Grant Williams.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast to hear the full interview with Kanter, who discusses that new-look frontcourt, why he devoted so much time and resources this summer to his youth camps, his early impressions of Brad Stevens, and why others are sleeping on Boston as the 2019-20 season approaches.

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