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Celtics lose out on potential free agent targets to other NBA teams

Patty Mills, who knows new Celtics coach Ime Udoka well from their days in San Antonio, instead signed a free agent deal with the Nets.Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Celtics remained quiet through the first full day of free agency on Tuesday as potential targets elected to sign with other teams.

Spurs guard Patty Mills and forward Rudy Gay, who both played for San Antonio while new Celtics coach Ime Udoka was an assistant there, agreed to deals with the Nets and Jazz, respectively. Late Monday night, Magic wing Otto Porter Jr. agreed to a deal with the Warriors, and Nets forward Jeff Green committed to sign with the Nuggets.

The teams these players chose are mostly in a better position to challenge for a championship this coming season than the Celtics. Boston still has a $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception to use, but as good options evaporate it’s appearing increasingly likely that the team will ultimately fill out its roster with players on veteran minimum deals, potentially keeping the Celtics below the luxury-tax threshold.


According to a league source, Boston remains focused on maintaining maximum flexibility, putting it in position to make a big splash at this coming season’s trade deadline or next summer. One issue with that approach, of course, is that it gives the perception that the team might essentially be punting this season despite having a pair of young All-Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Let’s get started

The Celtics’ summer league team opened practice at the Auerbach Center on Tuesday. The roster includes returning Celtics Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Payton Pritchard, and Aaron Nesmith, as well as 2020 second-round pick Yam Madar.

“I’m very excited to work with our whole team and, in particular, those [returning] guys,” said assistant coach Joe Mazzulla, who will guide the summer squad. “I’ve grown to have a good relationship with them and they’re very eager to get better every single day, and they’re excited to play. Each one has strengths and weaknesses that they know of and that they are eager to work on.”


Payton Pritchard will be a part of the Celtics' Summer League team.Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Mazzulla said that Udoka, who is serving as an assistant coach for Team USA at the Olympics, has been communicating frequently with his staff in Boston and giving direction to the summer league squad.

“This week is the first week that some of the new staff members have been here,” Mazzulla said. “We’re just trying to learn about each other, trying to communicate and build trust and make sure we’re organized when the players leave the gym. We’ve done a great job of having development plans for the young guys, being organized in our gym setting and our development, and I think it’s going well so far. When Ime does get back here, we look forward to continuing to build our culture and build our environment in our relationships.”

The Celtics will play five games in the Las Vegas summer league, which begins on Sunday.

Madar eager

Madar, the 47th pick of the 2020 draft, completed his first practice as a Celtic on Tuesday. The 20-year-old spent last season playing in Israel.

“The season was great for me,” he said. “I think I grew a lot in my ability. I improved a lot of things on the offensive and defensive side. I understand the game much more than I had in the past season. I just need to build it year by year, because when you’re here, you just want to go from the start.”

Yam Madar is excited to get his first taste of NBA life.Europa Press Sports/Europa Press via Getty Images

Madar has not been signed to an NBA contract yet, and there remains a chance he will return to Israel for another year after summer league. But on Tuesday he sounded confident that he will remain in Boston.


“I feel comfortable in my game,” he said. “It’s a new level. It’s a new challenge. I worked really hard, I prepared myself for this moment to come. I know it’s going to be this year that I come [to Boston], and I’m excited to get started.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.