Celtics

NBA rumors: Kyrie Irving, Nets agree to four-year max contract

NBA rumors: Kyrie Irving, Nets agree to four-year max contract

The Kyrie Irving era in Boston has come to a close.

The Celtics point guard will agree to a four-year, $141 million max contract with the Brooklyn Nets early in the NBA free agency period Sunday night. Players (with few exceptions) are not able to officially sign their new deals until July 6. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Irving will be joined by free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan.

Irving arrived in Boston after a surprising trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in August of 2017. He played well for the C's in 2017-18 but was unable to take part in the team's playoff run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in April of 2018.

The Celtics went into 2018-19 with expectations of competing for an NBA championship with Irving and Gordon Hayward each returning from season-ending injuries. Irving told fans at a season ticket holder event in October that he planned to re-sign the team, which was a sigh of relief for many Celtics supporters.

Unfortunately for the C's, everything that could have gone wrong following that October event actually did go wrong. The team struggled out of the gate, earning a 10-10 record through 20 games. Irving played a part in the team chemistry issues that seemed to plague the club throughout the campaign, and his performance as a team leader also was poor. When pressed about his commitment to the franchise, Irving told reporters Feb. 1 to "ask me July 1."

The Celtics, despite an excellent statistical season from Irving, limped through the regular season as the No. 4 seed in the East entering the playoffs, where they ultimately were eliminated in a five-game second-round series by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Irving era in Boston had so much potential when it started, but by the end, it was clear that both sides needed to move on.

Luckily for the Celtics, it looks like they've found an excellent replacement for Irving in Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. Walker reportedly will agree to a four-year, $141 million contract with the C's on Sunday night.

Click here for our NBA free agency live blog>>>

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.

Isaiah Thomas jokingly vows to never play defense again after thumb injury

Isaiah Thomas jokingly vows to never play defense again after thumb injury

Isaiah Thomas' latest attempt to return to NBA stardom suffered a setback this week when he suffered a thumb injury, which is expected to keep him sidelined for six to eight weeks.

The veteran point guard, who signed with the Washington Wizards in July, tweeted Wednesday he suffered the injury playing defense. 

You have to give Thomas credit for injecting a little humor into what is obviously a difficult situation for him.

Thomas quickly became a beloved figure in Boston despite his short tenure with the Celtics. He suffered a hip injury playing for the C's during the 2016-17 season, and he was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston in August of 2017. Thomas has struggled to stay healthy and regain his All-Star form since that trade, and the the Wizards will be his fourth team since leaving Boston.

It's safe to say the basketball world is rooting hard for Thomas to make a successful comeback from his latest injury.

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.

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

my_post_89.jpg
USA TODAY Sports photo

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

For Day 3 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our panel to take a trip to the hardware store and predict which Celtics player might bring home some of the NBA’s hardware by winning a postseason award.

Outside of maybe only Most Valuable Player, there’s an argument to be made that a Celtics player, coach, or executive could muscle their way into the conversation for the league’s other top honors. Alas, you’d have to rewind to the 2007-2008 season to find the last time the Celtics found themselves in that spotlight when Kevin Garnett won Defensive Player of the Year and Danny Ainge was Executive of the Year.

Celtics players haven’t muscled their way into the voting much in recent seasons. Last year, only Marcus Smart charted on an award while finishing eighth in Defensive Player of the Year. Jayson Tatum was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017-18, while Al Horford was fifth in Defensive Player of the Year balloting that season. Isaiah Thomas was fifth in both MVP and Most Improved voting for the 2016-17 campaign.

But if the Celtics are to outkick most prognosticator’s expectations this season, they’ll need someone on their roster to at least vault into the conversation for these awards.

So who is most likely to earn themselves a shiny trophy?

Our vote went to Marcus Smart for Sixth Man of the Year. With the glut of wing depth this season, we believe there’s a strong chance that Smart will initially shuffle back to his familiar bench role, allowing coach Brad Stevens to trot out a versatile starting lineup featuring Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and a big (with Enes Kanter the early favorite to hold that starter job initially).

Stevens has long preferred to deploy Smart in a reserve role, allowing Smart to set the tone for the second unit while also providing another ball-handler for the second group. The Celtics went away from that last season when Smart elevated from a bench role in November and started 60 games overall. Kyrie Irving routinely advocated for Smart, noting how much he enjoyed playing alongside him at the start of games, which only solidified Smart’s spot with the first unit.

A similar script could certainly unfold this season. But it would be the most Marcus Smart thing if he’s the player that embraces shuffling to the second unit and allows Hayward, Tatum, and Brown to play with the first group.

Yes, the Sixth Man award tends to honor a high-scoring player on one of the league’s top teams. But if the Celtics overachieve this season, there will be extra attention on the player(s) that spearheaded the second unit. Smart, with his All-Defense pedigree and improving offensive efficiency, could dive into the conversation for Sixth Man the same way he pounces on a loose ball.

Abby Chin: Gordon Hayward, Sixth Man of the Year

I believe Hayward will be almost — if not fully — back to his Utah self this season. But, with the glut of talent on the wing, and Hayward's ability to facilitate the offense on that second unit, it might make the most sense for him to come off the bench again. I think Hayward will finish games on the court, he just may not start there.

 

Sherrod Blakely: Brad Stevens, Coach of the Year

The Celtics will finish with a record that exceeds the expectations of many, and will include wins over East favorites Philly and Milwaukee.

 

Max Lederman: Gordon Hayward, Most Improved

Hayward has been in the lab all summer working on getting back to the player he was before the injury. He had a few flashes last season, but was a shell of his former self. I know this award tends to go to a young breakout player but I think a really strong start to the season could make some folks consider taking a different approach with their votes.

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.