Celtics

NBA Rumors: Execs believe this dynamic 'upended' Celtics last season

NBA Rumors: Execs believe this dynamic 'upended' Celtics last season

Why did the Boston Celtics' 2018-19 go off the rails? ... How much time do you have?

Here's the prevailing theory: Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who both missed the 2017-18 playoffs, struggled to assimilate into a roster that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without them, creating deep chemistry issues on a roster supposedly brimming with talent.

According to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, executives around the league apparently buy that theory, but more specifically believe the contract structure of the Celtics' most important players also played a role in their demise.

"A player salary structure that doesn't reflect the pecking order in value and contributions can cause dissension," Bucher wrote Tuesday. "Several executives believe that is the dynamic that upended the Boston Celtics last season."

As Bucher points out, Hayward was Boston's highest-paid player last season at $31.2 million but was far from its best player, averaging just 11.5 points per game as he recovered from a serious ankle injury.

Meanwhile, players earning a fraction of that salary on their rookie contracts -- namely Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier -- either outperformed Hayward or believed they could after the success they found in the 2017-18 season.

"In that situation you have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier making names for themselves and hadn't got paid yet," one "player-turned-executive" told Bucher. "They got a taste of the Eastern Conference Finals, they go seven games, and all of a sudden Kyrie and Gordon Hayward are back the next year and everything changes. It's a tricky situation."

Compensation rarely is an accurate reflection of talent on any NBA roster, as players often get big paydays as a result of success they had while earning less money. (Just ask Rozier.) But Bucher points out that players are "keenly aware" of what their contemporaries make and that disproportionate salaries can affect locker room dynamics.

There obviously were other factors at play for the Celtics last season, but with Kemba Walker coming to Boston on a four-year, $141 million maximum deal, they'll need to set egos aside to avoid more drama in 2019-20.

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Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Kemba Walker hasn't been Jaylen Brown's teammate for very long; the two players haven't even played a regular-season game together yet.

But after getting an up-close look at Brown during FIBA World Cup play, training camp, and the preseason, Walker likes what he sees from Brown, who inked a four-year contract extension worth up to $115 million on Monday afternoon.

The deal comes just three and a half months after Walker signed a $141 million contract with Boston — and to Walker, this latest deal reaffirms the franchise's commitment to winning.

“I know what these guys are all about, man, and this organization, they want to win,” Walker told Jared Weiss of The Athletic Monday afternoon. “You have to invest in the players, and Jaylen, he deserves it. I’m super, super happy for him.”

Had Brown not signed on the dotted line Monday, he would've been a restricted free agent next summer. But now he can play out the season with job security instead of potentially getting distracted by questions about playing for a new contract.

“I’m not saying Jaylen would do it, but it can be hard for a guy to be playing for a contract just for one year,” said Walker, who marveled at Brown's intelligence on the court. “He could’ve not took it and played the year out to showcase himself to other teams or even the Celtics again. Now it’s just less pressure. Now he really can just play basketball, work on his game and just continue to get better without worrying about his contract situation. I think it’s a huge burden off his back.”

It sure looked like there was a burden off both Brown and Danny Ainge's backs when the pen was put to paper Monday. Brown posted a picture of the big moment on the Instagram page for 7uice, his official brand. 

Brown's big week continues Wednesday when the Celtics open the season against the 76ers — and then on Thursday, when he celebrates his 23rd birthday.

Blakely & Forsberg predict 2019-20 NBA award-winners>>>>>

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Predicting the NBA Awards ahead of the 2019-20 season

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Predicting the NBA Awards ahead of the 2019-20 season

The NBA experienced an unprecedented amount of player movement during the 2019 offseason, and the Warriors are no longer the overwhelming favorite for the championship. Now that the hierarchy in the league has changed and both conferences are more wide open than ever, how will that impact the league's award races?

Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely give their predictions for the 2019-20 NBA Awards, including who they think will win MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GALLERY>>>>

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