Irving finally able to quench his rebound thirst with Celtics

Irving finally able to quench his rebound thirst with Celtics

BOSTON — Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, with one triple-double to his name before Thursday, fell one assist shy of notching his second consecutive triple-double in the 129-120 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at TD Garden.

Irving has produced maybe the two best rebounding efforts of his career in consecutive games, grabbing a career-best 11 boards against Atlanta. Four of the six games in which Irving has grabbed double-digit rebounds in his career have happened since Christmas.

So why the sudden uptick in rebounds?


“I just wasn’t asked to do it a lot in Cleveland. Tristan [Thompson] was like an offensive-rebound maniac and [LeBron James] was trying to get every rebound. I was with some thirsty guys for rebounding,” Irving said to laughter.

"And that’s OK, that’s their job, and I fully support that. So, I wasn’t really down there that much. I’ve always been capable of doing it, but helping our bigs here is a point of emphasis for us.”

While the rebounds are relatively new, the rest of Irving’s stat line has become the norm. He followed up his 31-point triple-double by scoring 30 points on 12-for-24 shooting against the Hawks. Irving added nine assists, a steal, and two blocks (including a late-game swat of John Collins with Boston up six with 20 seconds to play). 

“I’m just trying to play the game the right way, play with just unbelievable effort, making sure I’m getting guys involved, but staying aggressive looking for my shot,” said Irving. "As I do that more, it starts to open up for my teammates. I think I was being a little more conservative over the past games before All-Star break, and since then I’ve just tried to be as aggressive as possible. 

"When I’m aggressive, the team is aggressive, and it helps us. It’s a lot easier to get assists when you’re looking for your shot first, if that makes sense. Coming off and you’re acting like you’re about to shoot, you can see the defense collapsing off just a simple play. Just reading it really well.”

It’s hard to argue with the numbers that Irving has posted, particularly since the team’s much-ballyhooed cross-country flight last weekend.

Over the past six games, Irving is averaging 25.6 points while shooting 49 percent from the field to go along with 9.6 assists and 7 rebounds over 34.4 minutes per game (a noticeable uptick for a player who had gently hinted he’d like as much floor time as possible). Irving’s net rating in that span is plus-7.3 and the Celtics are 5-1, their only loss coming to the Clippers at the tail end of the four-game road trip out west.

But the rebounding, in particular, has caught the eye of his teammates.

"I think [Irving’s rebounding is] great,” said big man Al Horford, who sat out an extended stretch of the second half with knee discomfort. "I think when our guards rebound the ball like that, I think that’s when you start becoming a team that’s elite. Him and Terry and those guys coming in there getting those long rebounds, those rebounds over the top, they just make us that much better. 

"It’s been really impressive what he’s been able to do these last few games.”

Irving’s all-around effort isn’t lost on coach Brad Stevens.

"I think the way he passes the ball, he’s been active on the glass, offensive and defensive, and he’s obviously always going to go double-figures in scoring. So, I mean, every night, he’s doing a lot for us,” said Stevens. "He’s really, really played well recently. He’s had a great year anyway, but I just think he’s filling it up right now in every category and I think he’s -- at the end of games people are paying so much attention to him he’s just getting rid of it, making the right play.”

Irving and Hawks rookie Trae Young dazzled with their offensive talents, trading baskets early in a game that was often thin on defensive effort. Irving offered high praise for Atlanta’s sharpshooting guard and likes the challenges of a new generation.

"I’m greatly impressed just to see his evolution from what was it October all the way until now. He’s definitely in contention with Luka [Doncic] for Rookie of the Year,” said Irving. “It’s probably one of the closest races in a little while just for how successful those guys have been. He’s just been growing and maturing. And their coach is putting him in a great position to be successful, coming off those double drags, he and John Collins have a great friendship as you can see on the court and off the court. 

"It’s just great to see young guys like that develop, coming in and kind of proving everybody wrong. It’s his first year. First, in October everyone was like, ‘He’s too small to play. He’s this, he’s that.’ And now it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s actually [good]. He has the potential to be a special player in this league.’ So I’m excited to go against him for the next however many years we go against each other.

Irving, as he is wont to do, retold the story of how Jose Calderon produced a big game in Irving’s NBA debut (Irving often notes how Calderon “busted his ass” and his stat line seems to grow each time he mentions it). 

"That’s what makes it fun, going out there and playing against those guys,” said Irving. "Because, obviously, it’s a challenge for them. They see me in a certain light, I see them — I’ve been watching these guys for a while. But to have that competitive spirit, I love it. It’s just competition all in one — I grew up on that type of stuff. So when someone scores on you, please believe I’m going right back at them. 

"So it’s just, as you grow and go from different levels — high school to college to the NBA — now everybody’s on an even playing field and you’ve got to show why you’re here."

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Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

The Boston Celtics waived Max Strus, Kaiser Gates, and Yante Maten on Saturday, trimming their roster to the regular-season limit of 17.

With the moves, summer league standout Javonte Green appears to have clinched the team’s 15th roster spot. Gates and Maten will have a chance to latch on with the Maine Red Claws as affiliated players after they clear waivers.

The Celtics signed Strus to a 2-way deal after he went undrafted then promoted him to the 15-man roster earlier this week on a partially guaranteed deal. That opened a 2-way slot to sign 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall.

Strus played well late in the exhibition slate and made 5 of his 12 3-point attempts overall. The combination of Fall’s potential and his popularity forced the team to maneuver. With help from his springy hops, Green made 16 of his 20 shots in the preseason and showed an ability to be an aggressive perimeter defender, helping him edge Strus in the competition for the final spot on the parent roster.

The Celtics open the regular season on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

FORSBERG: What does Pascal Siakam's deal mean for Jaylen Brown?>>>

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What does Pascal Siakam's deal mean for Jaylen Brown?

What does Pascal Siakam's deal mean for Jaylen Brown?

Pascal Siakam became the third member of the 2016 draft class to ink a maximum-salary extension after reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $130 million extension with the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

Siakam took the four-year max after both Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Denver’s Jamal Murray previously agreed to five-year extensions this summer. Siakam becomes the face of Toronto’s future as the Kawhi-less Raptors move forward from last year’s championship season.

What does Siakam’s agreement mean for Boston’s Jaylen Brown?

Brown, if he does not come to an agreement with the Celtics on an extension before Monday night’s deadline, is now positioned to be maybe the marquee name among the 2020 free-agent class. With many potential big names off the board — including Draymond Green who agreed to an extension with the Warriors this summer — Brown would be a desirable target for teams even as a restricted free agent.

(This, of course, assumes Anthony Davis elects to re-sign with the Lakers if he opts out of the final year of his deal.)

The more sobering news for Brown is that only a handful of teams currently project to have more than $20 million in cap space next summer. And with many eyes already focused on the potential bumper crop of big-name free agents on the market in 2021, it could limit the among of bidders willing to spend their money, especially while having to wait out an offer sheet that Boston could simply match.

The Celtics have made multiple offers to Brown and his new agent, Jason Glushon, in the ramp to Monday’s deadline. Glushon has been at the team’s practice facility each of the past two days and both sides seem content with how talks have proceeded.

The question is whether they can arrive at a number that works for both sides before Monday’s deadline. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge seemed to hint this week that Boston has already gone higher with its bid than a four-year, $80 million offer that was reported earlier this week. Brown is eligible to receive up to $130 million on a four-year extension (any five-year deal would have to be for the $170 max).

If the sides can find a middle ground — let’s say somewhere in the four-year, $100 million range — maybe there’s a deal to be made before Monday. But Brown could also bank on himself in hopes that a team would commit upwards of max money next summer.

Ainge noted Thursday night how it’s a delicate dance for both team and player.

"I think that when you’re doing a contract extension you’ve got to feel good about it, and the players have to feel good about it, and sometimes it’s hard for you to feel good,” said Ainge. "Sometimes you need the market to dictate what it is you’re going to get paid. So we’re trying to build a championship team and there’s a lot that goes into that, and part of it is managing a payroll.

"And for a player—I’ve been on that side of it, too. It’s basically all about you. It’s your world and you’re comparing yourself to others and it’s a complicated process in some year. Some years you know you’re not going to get a deal or have a deal. And some years a player has more leverage and other years a team has more leverage. So that’s why they’re complicated.”

How does a general manager avoid a player feeling insulted if a team doesn’t want to immediately pay their asking price?

"Again, every negotiation is different,” said Ainge. "Every circumstance, every year, how much money we even have. Some years we don’t even want to do it because we want to preserve salary cap space. There’s a lot of things that go into how much you offer or when you make an offer for a player. But I try to do all I can to show how much I appreciate that players and how much we love them and appreciate what they do.

"It’s just, timing matters.”

Jaylen Brown contract talks being monitored by several teams>>> 

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