Celtics

Celtics' Jaylen Brown is smart to bank on himself for next contract

Celtics' Jaylen Brown is smart to bank on himself for next contract

That Jaylen Brown is not interested now in a reported four-year, $80 million extension offer from Boston Celtics is not surprising.

Brown is eligible for a five-year extension worth up to roughy $170 million based on the league's salary-cap projections. The Celtics can also offer Brown a four-year pact worth up to a maximum of roughly $130 million.

Any extension would start with the 2020-2021 season and neither player nor team should be in a particular rush to hammer out a deal. The Celtics can extend a modest offer knowing that Brown is in line to be a restricted free agent next summer and the team will have the opportunity to match any deal he might receive. Brown can bank on himself knowing that a solid fourth-year season could drive his price tag way up.

Brown, the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft, is scheduled to earn $6.5 million this season. The Celtics can extend an $8.5 million qualifying offer next summer which will position Brown to test those often murky waters of restricted free agency.

The Celtics have a long history of treading cautiously with rookie extensions, having not completed one since Rajon Rondo in 2009. Boston routinely offers aggressive-but team-friendly deals that players have been reluctant to pounce on.

Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray are the only two members of the 2016 draft class to have negotiated maximum-salary extensions, with their respective teams essentially designating them as franchise cornerstones. That’s not to say that the Celtics don’t view Brown in the same light; they are simply putting a premium on cap flexibility while knowing they have options regardless of how the 2019-20 season plays out.

Scoff if you’d like at the notion that Brown considers himself more than a $20 million-per-year player given what he’s displayed through his first three NBA seasons. The reality is that rookie extensions are negotiated based on what a player should become and not what they are in the moment.

Brown can bet on himself knowing that the 2020 free agent class projects as one of the weakest in recent memory. Not only have Simmons and Murray already inked extensions, Draymond Green signed a four-year, $100 million extension with the Golden State Warriors this summer. That leaves Brown as one of the glitziest young names available, maybe only behind Pascal Siakam.

Many NBA teams will look to save their pennies for the potentially bountiful 2021 free agent class. The 2020 market only becomes more robust if Anthony Davis opts out and elects not to re-sign in L.A., or if Gordon Hayward opts out of the final year of his current Celtics pact in hopes of a bigger deal.

Even if Brown shows limited advancement next season, someone will almost certainly offer him a deal in the neighborhood of four years, $80 million. There are more than 50 players in the NBA this season making $20+ million. What Brown displayed in the 2018 playoffs is tantalizing enough for teams to splurge on a player who turns just 23 later this month.

Remember that the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr. eventually got maximum-salary extensions, so teams will spend on the mere hope of what a player might eventually become.

While the Celtics could splurge on Brown now, it’s not the worst thing for the player to have some additional motivation to prove himself. Yes, players can sometimes press too hard in contract years, but Brown handled last year’s train wreck of a season better than most anybody else on the Celtics’ roster and that bodes well for how he’ll respond this season even as he attempts to establish himself as a star.

The reported four-year, $80 million offer is likely just a starting point for the Celtics. The team might be willing to creep higher but Brown, who recently hired Al Horford’s agent, might ultimately be content to wait until next year in hopes of maximizing his payday.

What the Celtics elect to spend next summer might be dictated by Hayward’s future. A bounce-back year could encourage Hayward to opt out and seek a monster payday now with 10 years of NBA service. Conversely, if Hayward struggles again, the team must decide what to do with him set to earn $34.2 million in the final year of his deal.

Remember, too, the Celtics must brace themselves to offer Jayson Tatum a potential maximum salary extension next summer as well.

Boston can get a gauge on Brown’s development early this season and then either ready itself for the financial commitment it will require to keep him, or examine trade possibilities.

Remember that a player not agreeing to an extension doesn’t necessarily mean they will walk after the season. Marcus Smart turned down a strong offer and got slightly more money from the Celtics the summer after. Boston moved Terry Rozier to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade and recouped assets for his departure.

Brown has repeatedly stressed he wants to “just play basketball” this year and not get caught up in any drama.

"To be honest, I haven’t put too much thought into [an extension],” Brown said on Media Day last month. "I’m not losing any sleep over it. I think stuff like that will end up working itself out in the end, or however. 

"So I’m just focused on this season and playing basketball. I think that’s my No. 1 emphasis, and let the chips fall where they may.”

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Healthy Celtics offer glimpse of what's possible in dominant win over Lakers

Healthy Celtics offer glimpse of what's possible in dominant win over Lakers

BOSTON — When his night was complete, the Celtics having built a comfortable 30-point cushion over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers with five minutes to play in Monday’s tilt at TD Garden, Kemba Walker slowly made his way down the Boston sideline dapping every person along the way.

He started at Brad Stevens, visited with each assistant coach, then all of his teammates, and kept right on going when he reached the training staff. At one point it felt like he might head straight into the crowd and start shaking hands.

For the duration of the impromptu receiving line, Walker wore his trademark smile. It's something that hadn't been quite as present in the new calendar year (truth be told, he’s always smiling but not as much as Monday night).

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Walker had missed time with the flu, then knee soreness kept him out of a game. The Celtics had lost six of eight entering Monday’s visit from the rival Lakers and it was fair to wonder if much of Boston’s early-season success had been a bit of a mirage.

Then Boston went out and produced maybe its finest effort of the season. And Walker very much reveled in the 139-107 triumph on a big stage.

"This is what we should be on a nightly basis, and what we would like to be,” said Walker. "Hopefully the way we played tonight and this win will help us build in the future.”

In the same way that there’s a danger in overreacting to a short stretch of poor play, it’d be haphazard to put too much stock into a single victory — even if it involved handing one of the best teams in basketball their most lopsided loss of the year.

Still, here’s the notion that will be hard to resist: Monday’s game offered a glimpse of what a full-strength Celtics team can be.

Boston has so rarely had all of its horses this year that it’s been hard to draw firm conclusions about the team’s potential. The injury woes made their early-season success all the more startling and, while the team never really used it as a crutch during the recent rough patch, it was fair to wonder how much injuries were conspiring against Boston when it did struggle.

Walker and Brown had been questionable leading up to Monday’s game but the team got a double shot of good news. Stevens was able to trot out his preferred starting 5 for only the 13th time in 42 games and also tightened his rotation to essentially eight players, leaning heavier on the top-sub combo of Enes Kanter and Marcus Smart instead of the batch of rookies he’s had to throw darts with lately.

The results? Boston averaged 139 points per 100 possessions, according to stats site Cleaning the Glass. That’s a mark that ranked in the 99th percentile among all games this season and was Boston’s best mark of the year. Not too shabby for a team with the sixth-ranked offense in the league.

Boston’s effective field goal percentage of 65.2 was also its best of the year, as was its offensive rebound percentage after Kanter and Co. vacuumed up 14 of the team’s 41 total misses.

Even against a Lakers team gushing with length, Boston wasn’t bashful. Thirty of its 52 makes came near the rim. Some of that was Kanter’s putback but everybody attacked the rim. No one more notably than Jaylen Brown, whose early third quarter dunk on top of James left members of Boston’s bench wobbling around the parquet like clipped bowling pins.

“It’s a great reminder [of what this team is capable of],” said Brown. "We have to hold ourselves accountable to play with this type of energy and this type of effort every night. It just can’t be against the Lakers, we got to get up and play like that against Memphis in a few days. We got to be able to be resilient, humble, poised, and continue to move forward.”

What’s different about this team when they are near full health?

"Just much more dynamic,” said Tatum, who scored a game-high 27 points in 29 minutes, then declared that his dunk over James in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals was still better than Brown’s jam.

"I feel like we’re tougher to guard when myself, JB, Kemba, Smart, when everybody’s out there. It makes it tougher for the other teams to guard and it makes it easier for all of us with so many guys that can do so many different things out there. Hopefully we can continue to stay healthy. Obviously, we’d love to have Rob [Williams] back, but we’ll keep it rolling until he gets back.”

For a Celtics team that sometimes let inconsistent offense affect an already slippage-filled defense, Monday was a nice reminder to stay the course. The Lakers scored the first eight points of Monday’s tilt, James tossing an alley-oop from Springfield off the opening tip, and things could have gotten out of hand in a hurry if Gordon Hayward didn’t knock down a long 3-pointer to settle the Celtics.

Hayward, whose own inconsistencies had left him in the crosshairs of frustrated fans, finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting with six rebounds and five assists. He was vital in stretches, even if he won't make a highlight reel that will be dominated by Brown’s dunk, Tatum’s smooth scoring, and Walker’s tough-finish wizardry.

It’s prudent to remember that Davis was still shaking rust after missing time with a bruised backside. The Lakers certainly didn’t put their best foot forward. And, yet, the Celtics needed a game and beggars can’t be choosers.

"We needed it. We needed it. This is a really important game for us, and we treated it like it,” said Walker. "We executed. It was just one of those games to help us realize how talented we are and how good we can be and pretty much how bad we’ve really been playing.”

The Celtics learned that, when healthy, they can counteract some size issues against elite competition. That’s important considering their season-long struggles against Philadelphia. It sure feels like Monday was the best win of the season but only if the Celtics harness the positives.

"Good to be as close to full as we’ve been from a health standpoint. I’m hoping we can maintain that and build off of it,” said Stevens.

Later he added, “I want to see if we can play well with a sustained period with more bodies available and then we can gauge where we are, how good we are and all that stuff. But there’s still a lot of unknown. This is one game. Just like I think we didn’t overreact to losing the Phoenix game, we’re not going to overreact to winning this one.”

Stevens won’t overreact. The rest of us can. Like Walker, the Celtics needed something to smile about and, unlike some of the team's early-season wins, this doesn’t feel like fool’s gold.

This was a reminder of what the Celtics can do when healthy and engaged. It’s another indication that this team can hang with the NBA’s elite. Yes, a playoff series is a lot different than a random Monday night in January, but the Celtics can sweat that further down the road.

The Celtics needed something to smile about. But it won’t mean much unless they build off it.

Enes Kanter a primary source of Lakers' frustration in Celtics' rout

Enes Kanter a primary source of Lakers' frustration in Celtics' rout

BOSTON -- We're not sure how many people still call Enes Kanter "Enes the Menace."

But he certainly lived up to that nickname Monday night.

The Celtics big man tallied a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench with a game-high six offensive boards, out-working the Los Angeles Lakers on the glass to help Boston cruise to a 139-107 win.

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The C's were able to rout the best team in the Western Conference by capitalizing on second chances, racking up 24 second-chance points to the Lakers' 14.

Kanter set the tone in that category, snagging all six of his offensive rebounds in the first half and converting them into 12 second-chance points.

Simply put, Kanter wanted it more than the Lakers' frontcourt of Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee, which led to plenty of frustration on L.A.'s side after the game.

"That was one of the most disappointing things for me, because I feel like that's a controllable thing: boxing out and hitting people," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said when asked about Boston's second-chance points. 

"We didn't really do it all in the first half, so I'm very disappointed in that really from the total performance."

Davis, in his first game back after missing five contests with an injured backside, agreed with his head coach.

"Offensive rebounds killed us," Davis said. "They were more physical. They basically did whatever they wanted the whole night. ... We didn't do a good job of keeping Kanter off the glass."

Lakers star LeBron James put it more succinctly.

"It was a good old-fashioned butt-whooping. That's all," James said. "They beat us in all facets of the game: from the outside, the interior, points from offensive rebounds. (Those) were the main ingredients of this L."

Kanter's work in the paint also seems to be a recipe for Boston's success: The Celtics now are 7-0 this season when the 27-year-old big man records a double-double.

"He's a monster down there," Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said of Kanter. "He gets every offensive rebound and he finishes around the rim. He definitely gives us a spark off the bench that we need."

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