Celtics

Danny Ainge insists Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter were Celtics' 'Plan A' in free agency

Danny Ainge insists Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter were Celtics' 'Plan A' in free agency

When the NBA offseason began, few expected the Boston Celtics would be adding Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter in free agency later in the summer.

... Except Danny Ainge, apparently.

During an introductory press conference Wednesday at the Auerbach Center, Ainge said Walker and Kanter were the Celtics' top priority entering free agency.

"As we started planning for Plan A, our Plan A was Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter," the Celtics' president of basketball operations said.

C's fans may be puzzled by Ainge's comments, considering Boston entered the offseason as a frontrunner to land long-time target Anthony Davis. But when Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on June 15 and the Celtics learned Kyrie Irving would leave Boston days before free agency began on June 30, Ainge and Co. were forced to pivot.

That turned their attention first to Walker, who Ainge said has been on his radar for years.

"I've been watching Kemba also since he was at UConn," Ainge said. "I fell in love with him at the Maui Classic in his junior year where I think the whole world realized how good he was then. But I was sitting there in the front row watching very closely and it was very exciting and just had great respect for him throughout his career."

The C's convinced Walker to leave the Charlotte Hornets by offering him a four-year, $141 million contract in free agency. Adding Kanter was a bit trickier, though, as Ainge insinuated Boston didn't have the cap space to pay Kanter his full value.

"We needed a big guy and Enes was on the board, and we were worried someone was going to pay him a lot more money than we had available," Ainge said. "And he probably could have gotten more money in other places. But we're grateful he chose us."

Kanter indeed picked the C's anyway, inking a reported two-year contract worth $10 million to complete Boston's post-Davis, post-Kyrie "Plan A."

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Celtics Spotlight: Daniel Theis flew under the radar, but can make an impact

Celtics Spotlight: Daniel Theis flew under the radar, but can make an impact

Amid the frontcourt makeover that the Boston Celtics underwent this offseason following the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, the re-signing of Daniel Theis flew quietly under the radar.

The addition of “Plan A” big man Enes Kanter, the importation of French big man Vincent Poirier, and the progress of second-year rim-rocker Robert Williams drew most of the headlines. Theis, who quietly re-signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, was a bit of an afterthought.

Spotlights: Walker | Smart | Brown | Hayward | Kanter |

Tatum | Fall | Wanamaker | Ojeleye | Edwards | Williams

But it was Theis who played the most consistent two-way ball of the preseason, positioning himself to be a potential starter even if coach Brad Stevens elects to mix and match his bigs based on matchups.

It’s a successful season for Theis if… 

… Stevens leans on the German's versatility. One of the few bigs capable of both rim running and popping beyond the 3-point line, Theis can complement mosts players he’s paired with. Theis shot 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season and, further removed from the meniscus injury that ended his rookie campaign, he seems springier when lobs come his way. Now in his third season in Boston, Theis has a head start on the rest of the big-man stable and might just parlay that into a workload that exceeds the 900 minutes he’s played each of his first two seasons.

It’s a disappointing season for Theis if… 

… he doesn’t make the sort of strides that allow Stevens to play him against the beefier bigs like Joel Embiid, who often bullied Theis last season. Theis is a solid positional defender but he can’t allow himself to get pushed around near the hoop. Ultimately, that defensive consistency might just dictate his playing time.

2019-2020 Outlook

It’s Theis, Theis, baby. His defensive rating last season was similar to Baynes in comparable minutes. Even as Stevens toys with the idea of playing his bigs in short bursts, Theis will have an opportunity to assert his claim to a much bigger role this season. It’s easy to forget how good he was playing before the meniscus injury in 2018. But he won’t be overlooked this season with the Celtics eager to find a consistent two-way option at the big-man spot.

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Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Kemba Walker hasn't been Jaylen Brown's teammate for very long; the two players haven't even played a regular-season game together yet.

But after getting an up-close look at Brown during FIBA World Cup play, training camp, and the preseason, Walker likes what he sees from Brown, who inked a four-year contract extension worth up to $115 million on Monday afternoon.

The deal comes just three and a half months after Walker signed a $141 million contract with Boston — and to Walker, this latest deal reaffirms the franchise's commitment to winning.

“I know what these guys are all about, man, and this organization, they want to win,” Walker told Jared Weiss of The Athletic Monday afternoon. “You have to invest in the players, and Jaylen, he deserves it. I’m super, super happy for him.”

Had Brown not signed on the dotted line Monday, he would've been a restricted free agent next summer. But now he can play out the season with job security instead of potentially getting distracted by questions about playing for a new contract.

“I’m not saying Jaylen would do it, but it can be hard for a guy to be playing for a contract just for one year,” said Walker, who marveled at Brown's intelligence on the court. “He could’ve not took it and played the year out to showcase himself to other teams or even the Celtics again. Now it’s just less pressure. Now he really can just play basketball, work on his game and just continue to get better without worrying about his contract situation. I think it’s a huge burden off his back.”

It sure looked like there was a burden off both Brown and Danny Ainge's backs when the pen was put to paper Monday. Brown posted a picture of the big moment on the Instagram page for 7uice, his official brand. 

Brown's big week continues Wednesday when the Celtics open the season against the 76ers — and then on Thursday, when he celebrates his 23rd birthday.

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