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Preseason | NBA Preseason

Celtics celebrate, confident championship window is wide open

Tue Jun 18 3:59pm ET
Field Level Media

BOSTON -- With a Game 5 win on Monday night the Celtics sealed the NBA title, but Boston had actually been waiting for this moment for over a decade.

Just over five years after the Celtics claimed their 17th championship, Boston went into a complete rebuild on June 28, 2013, trading franchise centerpieces Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package that included role players and draft picks.

What followed was a stretch of nearly 11 years that featured ups and downs, plenty of change and a constant belief that Banner 18 was always just one season away.

Two of the draft picks in the Brooklyn deal ended up turning into Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, drafted third overall in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The Celtics decided to build around the duo, and it ended up being the right choice.

But before the arrival of Brown and Tatum, Boston went through the 25-57 2013-14 campaign that featured Jeff Green as the frontman. Then a 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas came to town and started to establish himself as "The Little Guy," in the words of the late Tommy Heinsohn.

Those teams may not have realized it at the time, but they were laying the foundation for something special.

Once Brown's rookie season rolled around, the Celtics were really starting to look like contenders. Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game during the 2016-17 season, leading Boston to its first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 2012.

The Celtics came up short but proceeded to load up the following offseason, trading for Kyrie Irving and signing Gordon Hayward. Even though Hayward fractured his left tibia just minutes into his Boston debut, the Celtics ended up returning to the East finals, where they fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games.

From there, Boston overcame a fallout with Irving and an underwhelming two seasons with Kemba Walker running the point to punch its ticket to the Finals in 2022. Heartbreak was again in the cards, though, as the Golden State Warriors raised the Larry O'Brien Trophy after beating the Celtics in six games.

After getting bounced in the Eastern Conference finals once more a year ago, Boston went all in.

The Celtics parted ways with fan favorite Marcus Smart, considered by many to be the heart and soul of the team, to acquire Kristaps Porzingis via trade, and they also made a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to bring in Jrue Holiday.

Those moves paid off, and now a league-record 18th banner will be raised this fall.

While this year's team was the one that broke a 16-year title drought, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is forever thankful for Green, Thomas, Smart and every other player that checked in for Boston over the past 11 seasons.

"I think the most important thing, something that's really been going through my mind throughout this process, is you can't lose sight of the people that came before us," Mazzulla said. "And I want to make sure every person that's worked for the Celtics, that's played for the Celtics that didn't win, knows that their work and what they have done has not gone unnoticed or it doesn't play a part in where we are at today.

"It can be so easy when you work for this organization and you don't win that the work that people put in just gets brushed over or gets ignored. ... So I think that's one of the first things that came to mind, was just because we won this doesn't mean what the people have done before us isn't just as important."

Through everything over the past seven years, Brown and Tatum have been the one constant.

"We've been through a lot, the losses, the expectations," Brown said. "The media have said all different types of things: We can't play together, we are never going to win.

"We heard it all. But we just blocked it out, and we just kept going. I trusted him. He trusted me. And we did it together."

Brown was named Finals MVP. He averaged 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the series, and Tatum quickly shot down any notions of him being jealous of his co-star.

"Extremely happy for him. This is a hell of an accomplishment," Tatum said. "The main goal for us was to win a championship. We weren't -- we didn't care who got Finals MVP. I know that I need him through this journey, and he needs me."

The Celtics had plans to fly down to Miami on Tuesday to celebrate for a bit before returning to Boston for their championship parade on Friday morning. And if all goes to plan, Celtics fans should get used to lining the streets and watching the city's duck boats roll by.

"I think we definitely have a window," Brown said. "We take it one day at a time. We definitely have to make sure we stay healthy. But, you know, we'll enjoy the summer, enjoy the moment, and then we get right back to it next year."

--Nick Galle, Field Level Media

Player Notes
Jonas Valanciunas Tue Jul 23 9:50pm

Washington Wizards center Jonas Valanciunas agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with the team this offseason. However, NBA insiders Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps have doubts about him playing out his contract in Washington. In fact, both believe he could be gone ahead of the 2024-25 trade deadline, with the Lakers being a team mentioned as a possible landing spot. At any rate, Valanciunas is coming off a down year, finishing with averages of 12.2 points and 8.8 rebounds. The Wizards selected Alexandre Sarr in the 2024 NBA Draft, so his development could be the deciding factor. If Valanciunas ends up in Los Angeles, he'll likely see plenty of minutes. In addition, Anthony Davis could finally slide back over to the four spot, potentially enhancing his shooting from behind the arc.

Precious Achiuwa Tue Jul 23 9:30pm

According to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks remain "in regular contact" with free-agent forward/center Precious Achiuwa. The 24-year-old began last season with Toronto but was moved to New York in the OG Anunoby trade. While he wasn't a consistent member of the rotation, he was a valuable depth piece for a team that battled injuries underneath the basket. With that said, there are clubs interested in acquiring him. However, if Achiuwa returns to New York, he'll likely come off the bench behind Mitchell Robinson. Yet, with Robinson's history of ailments over the years, Achiuwa may get chances with the first five.

Kevin Durant Tue Jul 23 9:20pm

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (calf) isn't expected to suit up when Team USA begins their quest for a gold medal against Serbia. While Durant is anticipated to play at some point during the 2024 Summer Olympics, head coach Steve Kerr is taking things slow while the superstar recovers from a calf injury. Without question, his presence will be needed. However, fantasy managers are more eager to see if this will turn into something that will impact Durant's status to begin the 2024-25 campaign.

Cameron Johnson Tue Jul 23 9:10pm

Brooklyn Nets forward Cameron Johnson remains on the roster after the team initiated a rebuild by trading Mikal Bridges to the Knicks. While other Nets will likely be traded heading into the 2024-25 campaign, Johnson could be the one with the most value. The 28-year-old struggled last season, finishing with averages of 13.4 points and 2.4 rebounds. He was also limited to 58 games due to injury and spent time coming off the bench. However, Johnson has an attractive contract, with the former Sun agreeing to a four-year, $108 million contract last offseason. With that in mind, the Nets offense had issues in 2023-24, so Johnson can't take all of the blame for his statistical woes. But if he ends up getting moved, 2024 Summer League MVP Jalen Wilson could make his way into the starting lineup.

Reggie Jackson Tue Jul 23 8:40pm

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, guard Reggie Jackson agreed to a contract buyout with the Hornets. Upon clearing waivers, he's expected to ink a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 34-year-old appeared in 82 games for the Nuggets in 2023-24, averaging 10.2 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 boards while shooting 35.9% from deep. Jackson has plenty of experience and will add value to a team aspiring to win an NBA title. However, he probably won't do much for fantasy managers unless Tyrese Maxey is out of the lineup.

Donovan Clingan Tue Jul 23 10:40am

Portland Trail Blazers center Donovan Clingan set a new Summer League record in Las Vegas by averaging 4.3 blocks per game. The previous top mark stood at 4.0 and was shared by Victor Wembanyama, Amen Thompson, and Greg Oden. Clingan registered 17 swats in total across four outings. He also came very close to averaging a double-double in the Summer League, posting 9.0 points per game with 12.3 rebounds. The 20-year-old was named to the All-Summer League Second Team. Clingan starts off his NBA career as Deandre Ayton's backup in Portland, but his defensive ability could secure him a good chunk of minutes.

Scotty Pippen Jr. Tue Jul 23 10:30am

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. scored 29 points and handed out 11 assists as his team lost the Las Vegas Summer League championship game to Miami 120-118 in overtime on Monday. Pippen Jr.'s juicy line included five rebounds, four steals, and two blocks, but his shooting was off. The 23-year-old made only one of his eight attempts from three-point range and finished 9-for-24 overall from the field. Pippen Jr. closed out the action in Las Vegas with three consecutive double-doubles, including a triple-double, earning himself a spot on the All-Summer League First Team. He averaged 21.5 points, 8.7 assists, and 3.3 steals. Pippen Jr. was a good fantasy contributor over the final stretch of the season in 2023-24. But with the Grizzlies' backcourt injuries clearing up, he will be forced to settle for a smaller role in the upcoming campaign.

Jake LaRavia Tue Jul 23 10:20am

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jake LaRavia erupted for a game-high 32 points in Monday's championship game in the Las Vegas Summer League, finishing a 120-118 overtime loss to Miami with 11-for-21 shooting. The 22-year-old went 3-for-8 with the three-ball and tallied six rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. LaRavia's Summer League campaign was disrupted by a knee injury, but the former first-round pick made an impressive return to the lineup on Sunday. He enjoyed a good finish to last season, but LaRavia will likely struggle to please fantasy managers in 2024-25 with the Grizzlies back healthy.

Gregory Jackson Tue Jul 23 10:10am

Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson II recorded a very efficient 28 points in Monday's Summer League final against Miami but couldn't guide his side to victory. The 19-year-old finished 11-for-18 from the floor with a 3-for-4 record from downtown. Jackson II missed his third double-double of the summer by one rebound and had two assists with two steals. The young Memphis forward was one of the stars of the Las Vegas Summer League and was named to the All-Summer League First Team. He averaged 22.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. After enjoying a strong rookie campaign, Jackson II has a lot to live up to in 2024-25, but he appears well capable of taking another step in his development.

Kel'el Ware Tue Jul 23 10:00am

Miami Heat center Kel'el Ware played his part in Monday's Summer League final triumph against the Grizzlies with a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double. The young big man had an excellent Summer League campaign with the Heat and finished it in style, shooting 8-for-10 from the field while also logging one block. Ware averaged 1.5 swats per game in Las Vegas, along with 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds. He was named to the All-Summer League First Team for his impressive efforts. At 20 years old, Ware still has a lot of room to grow and develop his game, but he looks ready to contribute to the Heat right away in his rookie campaign.

Josh Christopher Tue Jul 23 9:50am

Miami Heat shooting guard Josh Christopher was named MVP of the Summer League Championship Game after he scored 24 points to help his squad to a 120-118 overtime victory against Memphis. Christopher heated up in the semifinals against Golden State with a 23-point effort and continued where he left off on Monday. The 22-year-old shot a sizzling 6-for-10 from three-point range and 9-for-17 overall. He came up big defensively as well, with three steals and two blocks. Christopher, a first-round pick in 2021, hopes to secure a two-way contract with the Heat. He has averaged 6.9 points in 15.4 minutes across 138 career games but didn't see any NBA action last season.

DJ Steward Tue Jul 23 2:00am

The Chicago Bulls have signed guard DJ Steward on a two-way deal on Sunday. The undrafted Duke product has been impressive during the summer league. He knocked down 11 shots which accumulated for 37 points in 32 minutes on Friday. Steward is averaging over 19 points in the summer league so it's not surprising to see someone signing him to a deal. He went undrafted in 2021 and has bounced around in the G-League since then. Steward has a good chance of actually cracking the rotation on the rebuilding Bulls roster. This is a feel-good story but Steward probably won't offer any fantasy value right away.

Sasha Vezenkov Mon Jul 22 11:20pm

The Raptors waived forward Sasha Vezenkov on Monday. The 28-year-old played sparingly in Sacramento last season, averaging 5.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per contest. He was traded to Toronto this offseason. However, Vezenkov forfeited his $6.6 million salary and plans to sign a four-year contract with Olympiacos in Greece.

Spencer Dinwiddie Mon Jul 22 11:10pm

Free-agent guard Spencer Dinwiddie agreed to a one-year deal with the Mavericks. The 31-year-old began the 2023-24 campaign with the Nets before making his way to the Lakers. However, he struggled in Los Angeles, averaging 6.8 points in 24.2 minutes per contest. Dinwiddie could see a few starts in 2024-25, especially with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving being known for battling various ailments over the years. Still, he likely won't see enough action consistently to be a routine fantasy contributor in any format.

Kyle Filipowski Mon Jul 22 9:40am

Utah Jazz forward/center Kyle Filipowski completed Summer League action with a nice double-double, scoring 26 points and recording 11 rebounds in a 98-87 victory over Detroit. The seven-footer from Duke led all players in both categories. He added four assists and two steals for a good all-around line, shooting 8-for-22 from the field with a 3-for-11 record from deep. After struggling in the Salt Lake City Summer League, Filipowski had a strong run in Las Vegas, averaging 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. However, he clearly needs to work on his shooting after barely making 40 percent of his efforts across eight appearances this summer.

Scotty Pippen Jr. Mon Jul 22 9:10am

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. left his fingerprints all over Sunday's 99-98 win over the Clippers, recording the sixth triple-double in Summer League history with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. Additionally, he collected two steals and one block in the game, shooting 5-for-15 from the field. Pippen Jr. got only a few shots to drop, but he finished 3-for-5 from outside and was perfect at the charity stripe with 10 attempts. It's been a great Summer League campaign for Pippen Jr., and he gets one more opportunity to shine as the Grizzlies face Miami in Monday's championship game.

Jordan Miller Mon Jul 22 9:00am

Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Jordan Miller was a scoring machine in Sunday's Summer League finale against Memphis, netting 28 points in 26 minutes on 8-for-14 shooting. He nailed four shots from downtown with five attempts and finished 8-for-9 at the line. Miller also put a shift in defensively by recording a pair of steals with one block, and he tallied two rebounds and four assists. The 24-year-old, who was an NBA G League All-Rookie Team member last season, put in impressive work throughout the Summer League. Miller averaged 25.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 steals across five games. He's on a two-way deal with the Clippers and could get a look by the team, but Miller faces a lot of competition for playing time in L.A.

Kris Murray Mon Jul 22 8:50am

Portland Trail Blazers forward Kris Murray closed out the Summer League action with his best performance of the tournament on Sunday, leading the charge at both ends in a 105-95 victory over Houston. The 23-year-old put up 20 points on 5-for-13 shooting and registered nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. Murray was 3-for-9 from behind the arc. The Iowa product finished the Summer League with averages of 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Murray saw quite a bit of action during his rookie year, but injuries played a big part in it, and 2024-25 could be very different for him.

Brandin Podziemski Sun Jul 21 5:40pm

According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the Golden State Warriors would rather move Jonathan Kuminga instead of Brandin Podziemski in a trade for Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen. The 2023 No. 19 overall pick had a quality inaugural season in 2023-24, finishing by averaging 9.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting 38.5% from behind the arc. He also made 28 appearances with the starting lineup. Although Kuminga is someone the Warriors have declined to trade over the years, it appears chances are higher than ever that he could be moved. On the other hand, the Warriors have a hole to fill in the starting lineup after Klay Thompson signed with the Mavericks this offseason, meaning Podziemski is more valuable than ever to the club.

Sam Hauser Sun Jul 21 5:30pm

Boston Celtics forward Sam Hauser agreed to a four-year, $45 million extension with the team. The 26-year-old was a routine option off the bench for Boston during the 2023-24 campaign, finishing the season by averaging a career-high 9.0 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 42.4% from behind the three-point line. While the C's usually lean heavily on the starting lineup, Hauser should continue to see minutes in 2024-25. However, unless he gets a spot-start at some point during the season, his fantasy upside is limited.