Celtics

Lack of Fourth of July fireworks not a bad thing for loaded Celtics

Lack of Fourth of July fireworks not a bad thing for loaded Celtics

BOSTON – The Fourth of July won’t bring about the kind of fireworks Boston Celtics fans saw a year ago, but there’s still plenty of reasons to be fired up about this team.

After finishing within a game of getting to the NBA Finals without their two best players for the entire postseason run, the areas in need of improvement were very few for Boston.

The Celtics already came to terms on a two-year, $11 million deal to keep Aron Baynes in the fold at center.

Retaining restricted free agent Marcus Smart remains a priority, a prospect that looks better and better as time goes on as the market for big-spending teams begins to dry up.

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Forget for a moment about the Golden State juggernaut being even more formidable with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins and the return of Kevin Durant.

Even if Boston put together a package for the best available player (Kawhi Leonard), would it make the Celtics better than the Warriors? Would that significantly close the gap?

Probably not.

    But in the NBA, the first step towards dethroning the champs is to put together a team that can at least compete at the highest levels relative to the rest of the NBA.

    As you start to examine the landscape of the league, the Celtics are part of a pool of elite, title-contending clubs that’s becoming more and more shallow.

    One of the keys to Boston being in the position it is in is its ability to secure key elements to the franchise around this time in recent years.

    The Celtics announced the hiring of Brad Stevens on July 3, 2013, just days after agreeing to trade away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a slew of draft picks that eventually netted Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, in addition to one of those picks being included in the deal with Cleveland last year that netted Kyrie Irving.

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    On the free agency front, it was on the Fourth of July last year that Boston got a commitment from Gordon Hayward, who agreed to a four-year, $127 million deal.

    Acquiring Hayward did more than just reunite the All-Star forward with Stevens, his college coach. It was proof that the image of Boston as being this desolate place where no top-shelf free agent would want to play, was a mirage.

    Hayward’s signing came almost a year to the day after Al Horford came aboard in what was, at the time, one of the biggest free agent signings in franchise history.

    So when you look at this team and most of the key players to its success, this summer wasn’t about creating fireworks on the free agency front. It was about solidifying a roster that has a slew of talented players who collectively have Boston at the top of the Eastern Conference food chain.

    Fireworks? 

    Save that for the regular season and playoffs, when it really counts.

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    Report: Celtics 'quickly' shot down trade offer for Gordon Hayward

    Report: Celtics 'quickly' shot down trade offer for Gordon Hayward

    As Gordon Hayward struggled to return to form last season following his catastrophic ankle injury, some wondered whether the Celtics could look to move him and dump salary.

    Hayward was supposed to star alongside Kyrie Irving after the C's signed him to a max contract in 2017, but obviously, things didn't go as planned. Irving apparently mulled his exit from Boston in December of last year and when it became evident he was on his way out, teams checked in about Hayward's potential availability in a deal.

    But even amid what was a letdown season for Hayward and the C's, Boston was unwilling to part ways with the 29-year-old, according to one opposing NBA executive.

    “After it was clear Kyrie [Irving] was leaving, I told our owner that we could maybe grab Hayward for nothing if Boston tore it down," the executive told Keith Smith of SB Nation's Celtics Blog. "He’s owed a lot of money, but only a couple of years left. We made a call, but it got shut down quickly. I think Danny [Ainge] and Brad [Stevens] know what they have in Hayward for this year and going forward. He’s going to be really good again.”

    It's clear the Celtics weren't discouraged by Irving's departure and the chemistry issues that lingered throughout the 2018-19 campaign. Smith included quotes from other opposing NBA executives, who called the C's asking price for Jayson Tatum "insane" and said Boston shot down an offer for Jaylen Brown as well. President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge obviously believes in the core he put in place and has Hayward, Tatum, and Brown each at the center of the plan going forward.

    With the rocky season behind them, the Celtics will have Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter in addition to that core as they look to add some much-needed positivity to the equation.

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    Zion Williamson joins Jayson Tatum among latest Jordan brand signings for Nike

    Zion Williamson joins Jayson Tatum among latest Jordan brand signings for Nike

    Nike's Air Jordan brand has enjoyed a successful summer adding NBA stars to its roster.

    Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, has officially joined Jordan brand, the company announced Tuesday.

    “I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a Nike statement. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to, and I really can’t express how happy and excited I am for this journey.”

    The list of talented basketball players who recently have become Jordan Brand athletes is quite impressive, and it includes Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. Boston's 21-year-old star signed a deal with the company in June.

    Tatum isn't the only Celtics player on Jordan Brand's roster.

    Newly signed point guard Kemba Walker also is one of the brand's top stars. Tatum even tried to recruit Walker to sign with the Celtics in NBA free agency during a Jordan event in Paris last month.

    Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.