The Celtics will be back on the floor Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers to kick off Summer League with some new faces on the bench and plenty of intrigue surrounding the team’s offseason.
Robert Williams is set to make his debut in green after a rocky opening week as Boston’s first-round draft pick. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on draft night the team was fortunate that the Texas A&M product fell to Boston at pick No. 27. But some of the maturity questions that surrounded the highly touted big man heading into the draft resurfaced quickly as he slept through his media conference call the next morning, then missed his flight back to Boston for the first summer league practice this past Sunday.
Williams said Celtics coach Brad Stevens gave him an earful of a lecture – saying that there needs to be 100 percent effort and commitment to receive playing time. Minutes will not be a given on this roster.
Once Williams did practice with the Summer League squad, however, he did show off the crazy athleticism that had the Celtics so happy he dropped in the draft. Summer League team coach Jay Larranaga said the 6-foot-9 Williams “dunked with his elbows” and finished alley-oop passes like “volleyball spikes.”
The Celtics also quickly re-signed Aron Baynes at the start of free agency, but have yet to work out a deal with restricted free agent Marcus Smart.
Smart is in a tough spot with the market not developing the way he had hoped, while he tends to his mother – who is battling bone marrow cancer in his native Texas. The Celtics have extended a $6.1-million qualifying offer, but the four-year veteran is looking for a longer, more lucrative deal. The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy had a story Thursday night with a source close to Smart saying that he is hurt by the lack of dialogue from the Celtics on a new deal, and may be hoping for an offer from another team that forces the Celtics to match.
With many contending teams not having much money left under the salary cap Smart may be forced to accept what the Celtics are willing to offer.
Kawhi Leonard remains the biggest name out on the trade market. The Celtics have talked with the San Antonio Spurs about dealing for the All-NBA talent, but question marks surrounding his quad injury from last year and his desire to stay in Boston long-term make it a tough call for Ainge.
In the business of the NBA, players have the right to fight for the contracts and destinations they feel they deserve in free agency. While that may cause some hiccups around the league – including even a team with a seemingly bright future like the Celtics – it makes for plenty to talk about in the offseason.
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