Celtics

If Michael Porter Jr. falls in the NBA Draft, Celtics should consider trading up for him

If Michael Porter Jr. falls in the NBA Draft, Celtics should consider trading up for him

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA draft, it’s not unusual for a player pegged as a can’t-miss prospect to inexplicably dip on the eve of the draft.

One of the great examples of this was Paul Pierce, considered by most coming out of Kansas as a top-5 talent in 1998 who was on the board when it was time for the Celtics to select at No. 10.

Boston picked Pierce who went on to have a Hall of a Fame-worthy career that includes an NBA title in 2008 and his jersey number 34 being retired by the franchise.

In conversations with multiple league executives and scouts, the player they view as most likely to take a slight draft-night tumble is Michael Porter Jr. who missed most of his freshman season with Missouri after lower back surgery.

Porter Jr. won’t be considered a draft-day tumble unless he’s around when the New York Knicks are on the clock at No. 9.

The Knicks have had a (not so) quiet bromance for Terry Rozier III even before he blew up in the postseason. Marcus Smart, a restricted free agent, is on their radar as a potential target this summer as well.

Putting together a package involving Rozier would make re-signing Smart a more sensible move for the Celtics. And if Rozier became the central trade piece in acquiring the 6-11 Porter Jr., that too would make a lot of sense for the Celtics going forward in their quest to build a roster that has the kind of high-quality, position-less versatility needed to compete and potentially defeat the Golden State Warriors in both the short- and long-term.

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NBA Rumors: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis to join Lakers, says former NBA player

NBA Rumors: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis to join Lakers, says former NBA player

Kevin Durant's future with the Golden State Warriors continues to be one of the hot button issues in the NBA, particularly after his feud with teammate Draymond Green earlier in the week.

Durant is able to become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he declines his player option for the 2019-20 season, and everyone seems to have an opinion on what he's going to decide. 

Former Boston Celtics foward Glen "Big Baby" Davis believes Durant will come to the C's -- one of the teams he turned down in 2016. Another retired NBA player thinks Durant will go on a totally different path, however.

Here's what Jarrett Jack tweeted Thursday:

Durant, Anthony Davis and LeBron James all on the Lakers certainly qualifies as a super team, and one that likely would end Golden State's run as the league's best squad. The Lakers would need to trade for Davis, though, because his contract with the New Orleans Pelicans doesn't expire until after the 2019-20 campaign (if he declines his 2020-21 player option). 

It doesn't seem all that likely Durant would join James, especially if Durant wants to prove he's the better player. The two also have developed a nice rivalry after meeting in the NBA Finals over the past two seasons.

The Lakers have struck out in their attempts to pair a second or third star with James since he signed with Los Angeles as a free agent over the summer. They still have plenty of financial flexbility and talented young players to dangle on the trade market, so you can't really rule out anything at the moment.

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Celtics play their best with something to prove

Celtics play their best with something to prove

BOSTON - One of the big questions entering the 2018-19 season was how the  Celtics would respond to a new burden of expectations. The Celtics, with the return of a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, were essentially anointed the team to beat in the East and a red carpet was rolled out to the NBA Finals.

Still, even as the Celtics were being crowned, the Raptors were busy acquiring Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks were salivating for another opportunity to show their young core - headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo - was ready to truly contend. And, this week, the Philadelphia 76ers spiced up their own young roster with the addition of Jimmy Butler.

Entering the showdown Friday night with the visiting Toronto Raptors, the Celtics find themselves in a more familiar position than their lofty preseason billing. Beset by uneven play, the Celtics (8-6) sit tied for third in the East (alongside a Pacers team they lost to at the start of a 1-4 road trip) and the Raptors already own a 3.5-game cushion over the Celtics.

But if we’ve learned anything about these Celtics, it’s that they typically play their best basketball when they have something to prove. They’ve heard the whispers wondering if they are as good as they were made out to be and acknowledge that their play through 14 games has done little to suggest they are.

That could change quickly. Starting with tonight's visit from the Raptors, and continuing with Saturday at home against Utah, the Celtics can quickly reassert themselves as a championship-caliber squad and wash away much of the uneasiness from their uninspired start.

A very agreeable schedule through Christmas should only help the team further build momentum. But tonight's game is a statement game, a chance to not only atone for an early season loss in Toronto, but remind the rest of the league of Boston’s potential.

Maybe that’s why Kyrie Irving’s face lit up Wednesday when asked about the looming matchup with Toronto.

“Obviously, one game at a time, but that’s just a competitor’s dream to be going against the best of the best,” said Irving. “Obviously, early-season when we played them in Toronto it wasn’t who we are now, or what we’re trying to grow into. So I think it’ll just be a great test for us. They have a lot of great players that we all well know. So, just up for the challenge.”

No one is naive enough to think that all that ailed the Celtics was cured in one lopsided win over a lottery-bound Bulls team. But it was a nice jolt of confidence before Friday’s showdown. 

Tonight goes beyond the standings and it's much too early to get worked up about how seeding in the East will eventually look. Homecourt advantage is a luxury and something the team can jockey for in March and April. Regardless of tonight's outcome, the Celtics should be there pushing the Raptors and Bucks at the top of the East at season’s end (ESPN’s Basketball Power Index currently projects the Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics to finish with three of the four best records in the NBA, trailing only the Warriors).

Tonight is more a chance for Boston to really lock in, put together the sort of 48-minute effort they’ve so clearly lacked, and remind even themselves of how good they can be.

Boston’s NBA title odds have started slipping. NBA observers are fairly questioning if a healthy Leonard makes the Raptors the true favorite in the East. But just when everyone starts to discount the Celtics is when they typically start to play their best basketball.

Said Irving: “We just have to be up for the challenge. I’m excited for that game.”

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