Celtics

Ainge unsure if Celts will reach contract extension with Smart before deadline

Ainge unsure if Celts will reach contract extension with Smart before deadline

BOSTON -- The Celtics have talked numbers with Marcus Smart’s agent regarding a contract extension. 
 
If a deal isn’t done by next Monday, Oct. 16, Smart will become a restricted free agent next summer. 

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“I don’t know how this negotiation will end,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told NBC Sports Boston as part of their Celtics Preview show, which will air tonight at 8 p.m. “Regardless, we love Marcus and we’re anticipating him having the best year of his entire career this year.”
 
He certainly has gotten off to a good start.
 
Smart showed up for training camp 20 pounds lighter, moving better than he ever has since the Celtics drafted him with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. 
 
The big knock on him has been his perimeter shooting, something Smart has done a surprisingly solid job with during the preseason. In four games, Smart averaged 10.0 points per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from 3-point range. 
 
If you use recent history as a gauge for how an extension for Smart will play out, he’s more likely to hit restricted free agency this summer. 
 
Last year, Kelly Olynyk was eligible for an extension and he wound up signing with the Miami Heat.  In 2015, the Celtics did not get a deal done with Jared Sullinger. 
 
Ainge was asked whether he’s surprised when teams sign players to rookie extension contracts. 
 
“It’s important for you to get a good deal,” Ainge said. “Whatever we do over the next few days has no bearing on our long-term plans for Marcus. It just might be more expensive come next summer or less expensive come next summer. We’re both sort of rolling the dice.”
 
Based on the extensions already handed out to players in Smart’s draft class, it’s hard to imagine Smart signing for anything less than the extension Phoenix gave T.J. Warren (four years, $47 million), with a likely contract ceiling being the deal (four years, $84 million) Denver struck with Gary Harris, who established himself as one of the better two-way players last season. 

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A weeks-late realization that the Celtics kind of did chase LeBron out of the East

A weeks-late realization that the Celtics kind of did chase LeBron out of the East

Jayson Tatum's Game 7 dunk did not influence LeBron James' decision to leave the Eastern Conference, no matter how much I will continue to say it daily. 

The truth, as we've all realized, is that LeBron's mind was made up long before Tatum boomed him right in the face. 

But while it wasn't about that specific play, it kind of was about Tatum dunks. And Jaylen Brown dunks. And Al Horford dunks. And these heartbreakers. 

For as much as we talk about the Celtics having a wide-open path to the NBA Finals now, the truth is they had that anyway if LeBron stayed with Cleveland. The ever-careful superstar had to know his options were to either stay in the East and get smoked by the Celtics or go out West and get smoked by the Warriors. If the results are the same, he might as well experience them in a nicer city. 

James' decision to go to the Lakers clearly wasn't about winning. If it were, he would have explored options like the Celtics, Rockets or taken the 76ers seriously.

His decision to leave the Cavaliers, however, had to at least be partially about winning. Just being home for Cleveland isn't enough; it was the fact that it could be a winner that got LeBron to return in the first place. With it no longer a title contender because of the Celtics' roster, staying in Cleveland was probably no longer worth it for James. 

What's interesting is that the Celtics knew it, too. Jaylen Brown's comments last week about wishing LeBron stayed in Cleveland were bang-on. Now that LeBron's gone, the Celtics' waltz to a Warriors matchup will be accompanied by talk from dumb people that they weren't able to do it when LeBron was in the conference. 

Here's why it's a smart move PR-wise on James' part: If LeBron stayed in the East and got beaten by the Celtics every year, people -- dumb people, but people nonetheless -- would talk about a torch being passed and how James was no longer dominant because he wasn't winning. 

The West presents a different narrative. Do you know what you're considered to be if you lose to the Warriors in the West? A victim. A victim of a super team and a victim of Kevin Durant's cowardice (the dumb people's words, not mine). 

So LeBron made an easy choice to leave Cleveland and the Celtics had to factor into it at least a little. If Kawhi Leonard eventually joins him, perhaps he can see the Celtics in the NBA Finals one of these years. That's a big "if" considering what we just saw Paul George do, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron's road to the finals was blocked whether he was in Cleveland or Los Angeles. 

Did LeBron run away from the Celtics? Not necessarily, but he clearly saw the effect the Celtics would have had on him if he stayed in Cleveland. It wasn't as pretty as L.A. 

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Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

BOSTON – Walter Lemon Jr. has agreed to a two-way contract with the Boston Celtics, becoming the third player ever with such a designation for the Celtics.

He played four years at Bradley before taking his game overseas to play in Hungary, Istanbul, Greece, Germany and later returning to the United States to play for the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants of the Gatorade League.

But what do we really know about the newest member of the Celtics family?

Here’s a look at five facts about Lemon who, as a player with a two-way contract, will spend up to 45 days with the Celtics while the rest of his time will be spent with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws:

*Despite being 6-foot-3, Lemon Jr. is comfortable playing above the rim. That’s evident by him competing in Slam Dunk contests both in college (2014 and 2015) and in the G-League (2016).

*Finished his career at Bradley ranked among the school’s top-10 in scoring, assists, and steals.

*Best scoring game in the G-League last season was a 40-point outburst against the Maine Red Claws, the team he will be playing with most of this upcoming season.

*Became the first player in school history to be named the Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2014.

*On July 26 he will turn 26 years old.

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