Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed an earlier report from Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders that they’ve had talks about an extension with Tyler Zeller, and he said they’re engaged in discussions with Jared Sullinger, too, reports Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. The negotiations are preliminary, according to Himmelsbach.
“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge said to Himmelsbach. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”
They, along with offseason trade acquisition Perry Jones III, are eligible for rookie scale extensions between now and November 2nd, but Jones doesn’t appear to be a lock to so much as make the opening night roster, Himmelsbach writes.
Zeller is the most likely of the three to receive an extension, Himmelsbach opines. That’s the same sentiment expressed by CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely in an earlier report. Grantland’s Zach Lowe speculated recently that the Celtics would extend Zeller as long as the annual salaries are worth less than $12MM.
The 7-foot center averaged 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season and shot a team-high 54.9% from the field. Zeller and Kelly Olynyk are the only true centers on the current roster, though Sullinger and David Lee can slide to that spot in smaller lineups.
Sullinger averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 58 games last year but has undergone back and foot surgeries, Himmelsbach notes. There are also lingering questions about his conditioning, Himmelsbach adds, though an apparently slimmer Sullinger has been training in Houston with former NBA player and coach John Lucas for much of the summer.
Boston’s front office challenged Sullinger after last season to get in better shape. Ainge told ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan in March that he would have “great interest” in giving Sullinger an extension, but a weight clause would likely be part of any deal. The Celtics can afford to be more cautious with Sullinger compared to Zeller because they have four other power forwards on the roster.