Celtics

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

1:32 - Marcus Smart is back! Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta discuss the 4-year, $52 million deal the guard signed with the Celtics on Thursday and debate whether or not he’s worth the money.

7:36 - According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal, the issues between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady haven’t been resolved, but then we have Danny Amendola on Barstool’s “Comeback Szn Podcast” disputing this. Phil Perry, Tom Giles and Michael Holley try to make some sense of it all.

12:49 - After J.D. Martinez said that this Red Sox team is like a family, it has Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta wondering if the club has an identity and what that might be.

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Kyrie Irving's comments to ESPN suggest he's happy in Boston

Kyrie Irving's comments to ESPN suggest he's happy in Boston

In a sit-down interview with Jackie MacMullan on ESPN.com, Kyrie Irving touched on a variety of subjects, primarily his optimism for the next few years, his health, beating the Golden State Warriors monolith, and those persitent rumors connecting him and Jimmy Butler to the New York Knicks.

Asked by MacMullan if he'd be disappointed if the Celtics didn't come away with a championship in 2019, Irving got right to brass tacks: "Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes.''

And why so declarative?

"Because of who we have,'' Irving told MacMullan, "and what we're establishing here, not just for this season, but for hopefully for the next few years, something that's pretty special."

For his part, the five-time NBA All-Star and former NBA champ told MacMullan he's aware of the rumors of a shared interest between him and the disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star of joining forces in New York, but that he hasn't talked with Butler at length since they were playing for USA Basketball in 2016.

"Who wouldn't be a part of this?" Irving told MacMullan, alluding to the Celtics' gleaming new practice facility in Brighton. "Who wouldn't want to be a part of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Gordon Hayward? People keep saying, 'Why won't he commit to Boston?'

"Well, there are financial implications involved.''

Irving hasn't signed an extension, and could be in for a substantial payday in the summer of 2019 if all goes well. Irving says he's fine with the seemingly round-the-clock speculation about his future, saying, "I'm accepting it's going to be a constant story."

There's more good stuff to unpack that should get Celtics fans excited about the 2018-19 season. For one, he believes he's been the healthiest and strongest he's been in three years, and says he has a confidence in his lower body now that was absent in the 2017-18 season, as knee issues flared up again in the spring that shut him down for the playoffs.

For another, Irving doesn't appear to be afraid of the defending champion Warriors, who got even stronger this offseason with the surprising clearance-rack addition of DeMarcus Cousins, saying, "I've seen them up close. I've played them so many times. We've gone in a seven-game series [when I was in Cleveland], so I know what it takes."

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What should we expect from Al Horford?

What should we expect from Al Horford?

BOSTON – For most of his time in the NBA, Al Horford is credited for providing the kind of intangibles that factor into winning games.

While that certainly has been a factor in Boston’s success since the four-time All-Star signed as a free agent in 2016, intangibles can only take a player and a team so far.

Those intangibles have to be wrapped around production, something that always seems to be questioned in some capacity when it comes to Horford.

Regardless of where you fall on the Average Al/Awesome Al spectrum, the 6-foot-10 forward will have to be a major performer for the Celtics in certain tangible areas.

So what are those categories?

MINUTES 

Horford was second on the team in minutes played (31.6) last season, but don’t be surprised if he takes the minutes played title this season. Boston has a roster that has a plug-in-and-play feel to it, full of interchangeable pieces that can pretty much fill in whatever gap exists. But as you scan the roster, there really is no one player who can adequately deliver what Horford does on a night-in, night-out basis, even in the short term. Because of that, look for the 32-year-old to become even more vital to the team this season.

REBOUNDING

Although he grabbed a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game last season, there were nights when Horford’s rebounding numbers left a lot to be desired. But like many statistics, upon closer review, it seems as though Horford’s rebounding isn’t nearly as bad as some might believe it to be. He played in 72 games last season, grabbing at least five rebounds in 61 of those games. He led the team with 15 double-doubles and came within one rebound of a double-double on 10 other occasions.

ASSISTS

Would anyone be shocked if Horford wound up leading the team in assists this season? He averaged 4.7 assists per game last season which trailed teammates Kyrie Irving (5.1) and Marcus Smart (4.8). So the idea of him essentially dishing out one more assist per game this season isn’t a stretch, especially considering his assists ratio (assists per 100 possessions) of 26.6 was tops among Celtics who averaged at least 30 minutes played per game.

THREE-POINT SHOOTING

It’s impressive how far Horford has come with his 3-point game, to the point where he connected on a career-high 42.9 percent of them, which included 97 makes, a career high. Horford’s ability to help space the floor with his long-range shooting will continue to be a weapon for the Celtics. With the return of Gordon Hayward this season along with the team’s younger players being more confident and assertive in their decision-making with added experience, there’s the potential for Horford to get even better looks on 3’s this season which should make him even more efficient offensively than he is now.