Kenneth Faried

A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA notebook: Is getting a big man that big a deal for the Celtics?

A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA notebook: Is getting a big man that big a deal for the Celtics?

BOSTON -- Before the season began, there were questions about whether the Celtics needed an upgrade in the frontcourt.

And now, even after a strong 11-3 start, those questions persist.

That’s because the calculus for this Celtics team has changed in the minds of many.

Instead of a team that’s viewed as one with players still feeling each other out, Boston looks more like a team that’s one difference-maker in the middle away from being a title contender this season.

And while the idea of pursuing a talented big man is appealing, there are two significant obstacles that will make that a difficult move to pull off.

First, they have to find a team willing to part ways with a big man they like.

Most of the big men thought to potentially be on the move, i.e. Houston’s Clint Capela or Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, are playing well, as are their teams.

The other factor is the impact a new face would have on the team’s chemistry, which is exceptional right now.  Boston knows all too well how even the most well-intentioned players on a roster can have difficulty in playing well together, resulting in a squad that falls short of expectations.

One must also consider any move made has to be an upgrade over the current bigs-by-committee group.

If Boston wants to acquire a big man, their best shot might be to play the waiting game and hope one becomes on the waiver wire. Another school of thought is if 7-5 Tacko Fall continues to improve in the G-League and makes the most of his limited opportunities with the Celtics, he could provide the interior presence defensively that Boston is looking for.

And there’s always the Chinese Basketball Association whose season ends in time for their best players to potentially latch on with NBA teams looking for more depth on the eve of the playoffs. You can expect the Celtics will keep tabs on the standout bigs in the CBA (we’ve got one in mind actually; see below in FAST BREAKS) who could come in and contribute.

LUKA FOR MVP?

The “Luka-for-MVP” crowd is growing by leaps and bounds, as it should.

The NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year is off to an unprecedented tear that has the Dallas Mavericks looking like a playoff team after they fell short the past three seasons. After 14 games, Doncic is averaging a near triple-double of 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists.

More than his scoring, the 20-year-old has provided hope and optimism for a Mavs franchise that’s still adjusting to life without Dirk Nowitzki, the face of the franchise for the better part of the last 20 years.

THOSE SPUTTERING SPURS …

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the San Antonio Spurs come out to start the season playing their worst basketball. But this time around, well, it feels different. In the past, the early struggles were easy to explain away because of injuries, a brutal schedule or just plain ol’ bad luck.

This time around, none of those factors have contributed significantly to why San Antonio has one of the worst records in the NBA at 5-10.

Their roster, no matter how you want to look at it, simply isn’t on the same level as the top teams in the NBA. And when you throw in lots of inexperience coupled with competing in a conference that’s only getting stronger, you have a season like this. The Spurs are looking like their streak of 22 playoff appearances dating to 1998 (the longest in any major North American professional league) may be finally coming to an end.

FULTZ BREAKING THROUGH ‘BUST’ LABEL

It is fair to say that Markelle Fultz has not lived up to the expectations most NBA fans have for a No. 1 overall pick. Still, it appears a change of scenery is a good look for Fultz who, now in Orlando, is showing signs of being the player many thought he would be when he came into the NBA.

Through his first 14 games, Fultz is averaging career-highs in scoring (10.2), assists (3.1) and maybe most important, minutes played (23.7). Again, none of the stats Fultz are putting up compare favorably to Jayson Tatum, who was Boston’s pick-up in the trade with the Sixers, who selected Fultz No. 1. But at least now he’s being given a shot at playing, which was something that didn’t happen in Philly.

HONORING A LUV-A-BULL PLAYER

There won’t be a bust coming to the Naismith Hall of Fame of Luol Deng’s likeness anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean the 15-year veteran didn’t have a good NBA career. Most of his time was with the Chicago Bulls, an organization that recently honored Deng, who ranks among the franchise’s top 10 in a number of categories.

"It's what made sense," Deng told reporters when he was honored at a halftime ceremony recently. "Chicago means a lot to me when you look back, just at my career as a basketball player coming here as a young man, 19, but it's a lot of history here and I wanted it to end the right way. The best way to do it is with familiar faces and people that know me very well."

As much as one can focus on Deng’s basketball career which included a pair of All-star selections, Deng’s commitment to bettering the lives of those around him is what really set him apart and showed he was so much more than just a basketball player.

His humanitarian efforts across the globe have won him praise from all corners of society and earned him the rare distinction of winning the NBA’s sportsmanship and citizenship awards in his time in Chicago.

It has even caught the eye of world leaders, including former President Barack Obama.

"In a world rife with conflict, one of our most important obligations is to look after the innocent victims,” President Obama said in 2015 upon a visit to the White House by Deng. “And few understand this better than Luol Deng. His dedication to bringing hope to millions is an inspiration, as is Luol's own life itself. Both on and off the court, he sets a standard of excellence and service that all Americans can look to for inspiration."

FAST BREAKS

*Don’t look now, but here come the Milwaukee Bucks. After a sluggish 2-2 start, they have since won 10 of 11, including their past six in a row, and at 12-3 find themselves a half-game ahead of the Celtics for the best record in the East.

*Portland plans to waive Pau Gasol, but they don’t want to totally get rid of him. Both sides are working out the details that would allow the six-time All-Star a role on the bench as an assistant coach. The goal was to have him help on the floor this season but both sides sense that’s not going to happen with his foot healing slower than anticipated. So, the next best thing for both sides would be for him to contribute in the role of an assistant.

*Ex-Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is back in the mix with the Los Angeles Lakers after missing the early portion of the season with a calf strain. In his first four games back, all Lakers wins, he has averaged 7.0 points and 6.0 assists per game.

*If the Celtics let the trade deadline pass without doing a deal for another big man, don’t be surprised to hear Kenneth Faried’s name come up. He’s playing in China with the Zhenjiang Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he’s doing what most former NBA players do in the CBA and that’s put up video game-like numbers. In his first three games with the Lions, Faried is averaging 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds which includes a 26-point, 14-rebound performance in a 115-106 win over the Shanghai Sharks.

Blakely's Power Rankings: New No. 1 team for third straight week>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off tonight at 8 ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: Free agents the Celtics could consider for final roster spot

NBA Rumors: Free agents the Celtics could consider for final roster spot

The Celtics have undergone a lot of roster changes since the end of the 2018-19 NBA season.

Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, and Guerschon Yabusele are all gone. Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, and Vincent Poirier are all in.

But the C's still have one open roster spot, and an intense battle could develop in training camp. Tacko Fall was a summer league sensation, but will he start the season in Boston? Or could he get a two-way contract? Speaking of two-way contracts, could Boston sign Max Strus or Tremont Waters to an NBA contract instead of their current two-way deals?

Then there's the free agent route. Danny Ainge could still pursue a veteran to round out the Celtics roster — and if he does, there are a few guys still out there who could be serviceable pickups.

Click here to see A. Sherrod Blakely's veteran free agent options for the Celtics' final roster spot.>>>>>

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Celtics hoping to come up big, literally, in their quest to add size

Celtics hoping to come up big, literally, in their quest to add size

BOSTON -- Even before free agency got underway, the pickings were pretty slim if you were in the market for a quality big man. 

And with the Boston Celtics operating with a modest $4.8 million exception to offer, chances of finding a useful big decreases with each passing day. 

Even with most of the best ones off the board on Sunday, there are still some opportunities by way of free agency for the Celtics to help themselves bolster an extremely think frontcourt. 

We’re in leftover mode right now when it comes to big men, but here are four guys worth keeping an eye on who rank among  the best of what’s left on the big man market. 

ENES KANTER

Yes, he is a walking EZ Pass when it comes to playing defense. We know this about him. But there are few centers who can score with the kind of ease and consistency that he does, night-in and night-out. 

The 6-foot-10 center has shot at least 50 percent from the field in each of the last five seasons, in addition to averaging at least 6.7 rebounds per game. 

Even with all that Al Horford did during his time in Boston, Kanter is a better back-to-the-basket, low-post scorer. And for a team that will likely rely more on the long-range shot than ever, having that inside presence will create better shot opportunities on the perimeter. 

But Kanter will likely get more lucrative offers from other teams even if the Celtics could potentially offer him a prominent role in the rotation and a good amount of minutes. 

DEMARCUS COUSINS

If it were only about talent, DeMarcus Cousins would have been among the first players signed to a new deal on Sunday. But as we know, there’s more — a lot more — to Cousins than just talent. 

There are few big men with his size and strength who can score and rebound with such a high efficiency. 

He played limited minutes (25.2 per game) last season due to his recovery from an Achilles injury, and still put up respectable numbers (16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds per game).

But his sometimes fiery temper can get the best of him at times, resulting in the potential for the Celtics to have yet another season in which chemistry issues become a major talking point. 

You love the talent, but I just don’t see the Celtics rolling the dice on Cousins at this point.

KENNETH FARIED

There really hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Kenneth Faried despite the 29-year-old forward being one of the more productive frontcourt players when he plays. He is a career 11.9-point, 8.1-rebound performer despite playing an average of just 24.5 minutes per game. But Faried has seemingly had trouble sticking with one team for before seemingly finding his niche last season while appearing in 25 games (13 starts) with the Houston Rockets last season.

In that time he averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 58.7 percent from the field -- consistent with his career averages in those respective categories. 

However, the 6-8 forward is not a 3-point threat which is evident by his 22.2 percent career three-point shooting percentage. But he is an aggressive rebounder, the kind of high-energy big that the Celtics would really benefit from coming off their bench next season. 

FRANK KAMINSKY

There’s a lot of irony to this potential marriage. Kaminsky was the player Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan wanted to select with the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft rather than trading the pick to Boston for what would have been a boatload of Celtics draft picks so Boston would get a shot at drafting Justise Winslow (this will go down as the all-time greatest deal Danny Ainge did not pull off, for sure) who was selected by Miami with the No. 10 pick.

Charlotte did not extend Kaminsky a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. 

He is not going to do much for you when it comes to rebounding which is pretty obvious when you see he’s a career 4.0 rebounds per game player. But he’s 7-feet tall and can shoot 3’s — at least that’s what he was billed as doing when he came into the league. 

Kaminsky hasn’t set the league on fire the way many thought he could from long range, but he’s a respectable 34.9 percent 3-point shooter and connected on 36 percent of his 3’s last season. 

He would provide the Celtics another potential floor-spacer which as you look at their bigs right now, is nowhere to be found.

By no means does adding Kaminsky solve the two biggest concerns with the Celtics when it comes to bigs: defense and rebounding. 

However, getting him at a price tag that’s likely less than the $4.8 million exception the Celtics currently have, would be a potential low-risk, high-reward signing.

Here's Celtics' official summer league roster>>>>

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