Celtics

League execs, like fans, have lots of thoughts on Kyrie's future in Boston

League execs, like fans, have lots of thoughts on Kyrie's future in Boston

CHICAGO -- Like Celtics fans, the opinions about Kyrie Irving among league executives and scouts run the gamut.

But when it comes to Irving’s future in Boston, the overwhelming majority believe he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere next season.

A six-time All-Star, Irving will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

While Boston has indicated it wants to re-sign Irving, it is unclear if the feeling is mutual with Irving being linked with a number of teams led by the New York Knicks.

By signing somewhere besides Boston, Irving would be walking away from about $80 million.

But according to multiple league officials, that doesn’t matter.

“If you think the money he’s going to leave on the table by going somewhere else besides Boston is going to be an issue, you don’t know Kyrie,” one Eastern Conference General Manager told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s a different kind of guy; and a lot of the stuff that you would think would be an issue for him, he could care less about.”

A different league executive pointed out how the talk about Irving and issues with the media won’t be a factor, either.

“He’s thinking about playing for the Knicks, and we all know how big a (media) circus show that can be,” the second league official said.

Despite most of those spoken to indicating they anticipate Irving will play somewhere besides Boston next season, there were a couple of league officials who are convinced that when all is said and done, Irving will sign a long-term deal with Boston.

“He’s playing all of you guys right now,” a front-office official with a Western Conference team told NBC Sports on Thursday. “Say what you want about his leadership and all that nonsense, but the one thing we know about Kyrie is he will do what is best for Kyrie. The money, chance to win a title sooner rather than later, have his own team … all that stuff matters and when he looks at all the different options he’ll have, I think he’ll have one of those, “what the hell was I thinking?” moments and go back to Boston.”

An NBA scout who has followed Irving dating to his days at Duke agrees.

“I know this season didn’t end the way Kyrie or the Celtics wanted,” the scout said. “But when you look at what went wrong for them, it’s easy to blame Kyrie because he didn’t shoot the ball well. But when you hear what others are saying afterwards, Brad (Stevens) saying he did a bad job, players talking about how they sacrificed this and that … it’s pretty obvious that they had a lot of issues going on that were bigger than just one player, even a player as good as Kyrie.

The scout added, “I think he comes back and he comes back with an attitude; a little edgier with not just his words but his play.”

All agreed that the addition of Anthony Davis via trade would bode well for their chances of re-signing Irving, most believing the Celtics have to do that before they can officially get Irving back into the fold.

“Obviously they want Anthony Davis. Hell, we all want Anthony Davis,” a Western Conference front-office official said. “But even if they strike out on getting him, they still have to make changes. If they’re going to go all-in on Kyrie, they have to build this team around him with guys who can complement more than the last year’s team.”

And while all those spoken to by NBC Sports Boston had their own rationale for what they believe will be Irving’s fate, the one thing they were unanimous on is that there will be changes made to Boston’s roster next season.

But will those changes include Kyrie Irving?

Stay tuned …

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There's a lot to love about what Romeo Langford is doing defensively for Celtics

There's a lot to love about what Romeo Langford is doing defensively for Celtics

MINNEAPOLIS -- Within seconds of stepping on to the floor in the first quarter Friday night against Minnesota, the Celtics' Romeo Langford knew he was going to be tested. 

“Put him in action,” Langford heard one of the Timberwolves players tell a teammate when he saw Langford was the primary defender.

That’s basketball lingo for, “go at that dude!”

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The Celtics rookie has seen limited playing time this season, so he’s more than accustomed to being challenged shortly after checking into a game. 

“They can try me; a lot of people try me,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston following the 127-117 win over the Timberwolves. “It’s just funny to me. Because I know what I can do defensively.”

And fortunately for the Celtics, so does coach Brad Stevens, who has shown no hesitation in putting Langford into the game sooner rather than later. 

“When [teams] isolate him late, I feel really good about Romeo being isolated,” said Stevens. “He’s got great length, great agility.”

And tremendous confidence, courtesy of the time spent preparing for opponents with Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla. 

That confidence was on display Friday night, with Langford showing the ability to consistently contest shots, which led a strong night defensively. 

Langford defended 10 Minnesota players who combined to shoot just 1-for-7 against him, with the lone made basket coming in transition in the first quarter by Malik Beasley, who had a team-high 27 points.

And when Jaylen Brown fouled out in the fourth quarter, Stevens didn’t hesitate to turn to Langford to close out the game. 

"It's great experience coming in like that," Brown told NBC Sports Boston. "I don't ever want to foul out, obviously. But it's good that we can turn to Romeo and he can hold it down for us when he gets his chance."

A series of injuries kept Langford out for large chunks of the season making it more challenging for Stevens to know what he could expect when Langford did play.

Still, through stints with the Maine Red Claws and limited time with the Celtics, Stevens has seen the progress made by Langford particularly when it comes to defense.

“He’s starting to trust me now,” Langford said of Stevens. “Especially early in the game and towards the end of the game. It shows like, I’m doing something right. I need to keep it up now.”

To see Langford being praised for his defense is a far cry from where he was at the start of the season when all the talk about the lottery pick was centered around his ability to score. 

When it comes to defense, Langford said his approach is pretty simple. 

“Just embraced it,” Langford said. “Brad says and everyone on the team says, 'the way you play on this team at a young age, is by defense.' So, I like to play and I want to play so I focus on defense so I can get some run in.”

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Daniel Theis among the Celtics to put up big scoring numbers against Minnesota

Daniel Theis among the Celtics to put up big scoring numbers against Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Boston Celtics had four players score at least 20 points in their 127-117 win at Minnesota on Friday night.

Although it hasn’t happened by a Celtics team since 2015, it’s not all that surprising with this group when you consider the Celtics’ roster and the amount of above-average scorers they have.

But when you see that the quartet of big-time scorers on Friday included Daniel Theis … now that’s surprising.

It was indeed a career night for Theis who tallied his fifth double-double of the season with 25 points and 16 rebounds - both career highs.

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Theis credits his strong play to his teammates finding him when he rolled to the basket (over and over and over again) or on last-minute passes when the defense collapsed and left Theis open at the rim.

“So that’s what I kept doing,” Theis said. “Just roll. If they shoot it, go for the rebound.”

Theis’ strong game came after a lackluster start for the 6-foot-9 center.

You can count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised at Theis having a career night considering how he began the game. 

It started off when he lost the opening tip. 

Soon after that, the man he was sorta, kinda, but not really defending early on, Naz Reid, had four points in just 53 seconds. 

As far as Theis having a career night, “The first couple of possessions I would not have predicted that,” Stevens said. “He got beat up pretty good. But he was great; he was a threat at the rim.”

Theis is also a much tougher cover for opponents that try and go small, often having the size to overpower them in the post if they are smaller while still having a nice enough touch from the perimeter to make teams pay from distance as well.

“They were pretty small in there and he did a great job of getting behind (the defense),” Stevens said. “He also protected us at the rim in critical times there.”

For Theis, fielding questions about scoring is something that he’s not accustomed to doing. 

But this night was indeed an unusual one, even for a Celtics team that on paper has several players with high-scoring potential on a night-in, night-out basis.

“It shows how good and how deep our team is,” Theis said. “We have guys who can score 20 points every night; Kemba (Walker), JT (Jayson Tatum), Jaylen (Brown), Gordon (Hayward), (Marcus) Smart … today I was in that mix, too.”

And while Theis’ points were certainly important ones for Boston, don’t look for him to all of a sudden become a shot-chucker. 

“At the end, everybody knows I don’t care about the scoring,” Theis said. “I care about the defensive part; we have to get better on defense, we gave up a lot of stuff.”

Indeed, the Celtics know the defense that they played against the Timberpups (16-38 this season) has to be better going forward, not just against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday but also against other teams down the road that will be better than Minnesota. 

But it’s good to know that on any given night, Theis can do more than just run the floor, rebound and defend. 

He can also score which only enhances the value he has to this team.

“Theis played great. He doesn’t always get a lot of attention,” said Jayson Tatum who had 28 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double this season. “But he’s very vital to our team’s success night-in, night-out and capable of big games like this.”

Being an All-Star, Tatum is accustomed to the added attention defenses will pay him now. 

That attention tends to open things up for teammates such as Theis whose only 3-pointer made came on an assist from Tatum in the third quarter.

“I get a lot of buckets off of Theis setting screens,” Tatum said. “So I always make sure I say thank you.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.