Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward was in Boston getting a physical, buying a suit and, presumably, practicing his signature so it would look John Hancock cool on a contract for nearly $128 million over four years.
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens were back in Boston, too, having left here yesterday morning to sit at a table on a stage as soon as today and smile as Hayward is formally introduced as a Celtic.
Meanwhile, amid the preparations for pomp and circumstance and general hoopla, the club was taking on the demeanor of a duck — calm above water, but paddling like hell beneath the surface as it tried to complete the deals to free up the money for their free agent treasure.
Then comes the business of completing a roster that will still be heavily slanted in the direction of guards and wing players.
As of Thursday night, the Celtics had only two true frontcourt players — Horford and rookie Ante Zizic — on the roster. Even in the world of positionless basketball where Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, and possibly Crowder, if he’s still with the team, could play power forward, it leaves a squad that, at times, had devastating rebounding difficulties last year terribly thin in the paint.
Ainge will have to fix that through further trades and by using the exceptions that come back into play now that the Celtics will no longer be fighting to stay under the salary cap to obtain maximum-salary free agents.
Over the next few weeks, the Celtics will likely use the salary-cap exceptions — now back in play with the team over the salary cap — to find a big man a little farther down the trough of free agents with players like Aron Baynes, Tarik Black, Dewayne Dedmon, JaMychal Green, and Alex Len intriguing free agents or restricted free agents, along with veterans Marreese Speights and Tiago Splitter.
Metrowest Daily News – After clearing cap space for Gordon Hayward, C’s need to fill the roster
This adding-a-big-name-free-agent stuff is not easy.
Only three days ago, the Celtics got the best-available free agent in the league (and one who fits perfectly on the court), but the celebration is already over. We’re now fretting about the rest of the roster – and with good reason.
Kelly Olynyk is gone, Jae Crowder might be gone (although trade talks are reportedly stalled), and Ante Zizic has looked underwhelming in summer league. As for the above list of bigs who are potential low-cost signees, no one is excited about names like Aron Baynes and Alex Len.
I was wondering if some of the salary cap drama could be avoided by simply having Hayward sign for $300,000 less than the maximum. That’s a drop in the $128 million bucket, and would keep Boston under the cap. But my Red’s Army colleagues, Rich Jensen and Neil Sharma, pointed out that Gordo’s 2017-18 salary will affect subsequent years. Taking less now could eventually cost him a couple million bucks. The Cs would also have no wiggle room for any future moves. So, never mind.
Once again, we’re going to have to trust Danny to figure it out. One intriguing possibility is Jamal Crawford, whose name popped up last night. Crawford is reportedly interested in Boston if Atlanta (where he was just traded) releases him. Crawford, who’s from Seattle, is tight with Tacoma native Isaiah Thomas, and has been a mentor to IT.
Crawford is entering his 18th year in the NBA, but is still a dynamic scorer and one of the most feared streak shooters ever. The veteran last season played 26 minutes per game for the Clippers, shooting 36% on threes and averaging 12.3 points. He could be an intriguing addition to the team, in the mold of Eddie House with the 2008 champs, or Gerald Green last season. Certainly, his presence would make Isaiah happy.
Whether or not Jamal is in the mix, it feels like there will be some roster developments soon. Hold on tight.
Related: LinkedIn – Why Now Is The Time to Trade Isaiah Thomas | CBS Boston – Report: Celtics Looking To Address Rim Protection In Free Agency | MassLive – Demetrius Jackson misses another summer league game amid Boston Celtics roster uncertainty
On Page 2: Brad says don’t worry about positions
Now teams seek out players that have a Swiss Army knife-like skill set that can fit into a more free-flowing, positionless game. There’s value in being able to segue into multiple roles.
“I don’t have the five positions anymore,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It may be as simple as three positions now, where you’re either a ball-handler, a wing or a big.
“It’s really important. We’ve become more versatile as the years have gone on.”
“Tatum will play wherever,” Stevens said. “He can handle the ball. He can move it. … He’s at least a wing because he can really handle the ball, too. And he can shoot it and do all those things. He’s a very versatile player.”
Associated Press – Tweener no more: Versatility wanted in positionless NBA
Pretty sure Brad has spoken previously about this theory, and perhaps it sheds light on why the Celtics chose Jayson Tatum over the smaller Markelle Fultz. Other than IT, almost all the Celtics last year could line up at multiple positions as needed, allowing Brad to play big or go small. Tatum fits the mold, even playing the point for stretches last night.
To be fair, the first person I heard talk about this was (hold your nose) Pat Riley. When he coached the Lakers in the ’80s, Riley said his ideal team would be five quick, mobile 6’9” players. In other words, like five Magic Johnsons. Yeah, that team would win some.
And, finally: RIP, Gene Conley
Former Celtic Gene Conley passed away this week, and the news was largely unnoticed. Most of you reading this didn’t know who he was. But Conley was unique in Boston sports history, for his accomplishments and because he was both a Celtic and a Red Sox.
Conley was a teammate of both Hank Aaron and Bill Russell. He pitched to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. He guarded Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Pettit. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are the only comparably successful two-sport athletes since Conley’s era.
Gene Conley, another Boston sports legend.
The Rest of the Links:
MassLive – Demetrius Jackson misses another summer league game amid Boston Celtics roster uncertainty | Boston Celtics summer league notes: Jayson Tatum has fourth-quarter trouble with Donovan Mitchell
Salt Lake Tribune – Amid fan frenzy, crowd favorite Donovan Mitchell leads Jazz over Celtics