How do you feel about becoming a free agent at the end of the season? Jonas Jerebko: I’m just excited to be a Boston Celtic right now, finishing first in the East, and being in the playoffs. Being a free agent is always interesting. I love my time in Boston and I’m not closing any doors. I’m just excited for the summer and see what happens. I’m taking it day by day now with the playoffs, trying not to think about what’s going to happen in the summer. I’m getting in the gym early and staying ready for when my number is called.
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Your name was written under the ‘Hybrid Free Agency’ category on the now-famous Orlando Magic board. Did you see it? Jonas Jerebko: My uncle and my dad follow that stuff and they sent it to me. To be honest, I’ve played in the NBA for a while and I’m pretty sure all the teams have those boards. Yes, my name was there but I’m hoping my name is on a few other lists too.
Because of this free agent uncertainty, sources close to Johnson and Jerebko are saying they’ve been advised that the decision on whether to pick up one or both of their options could well come down to the final hours. Johnson is slated to make $12 million next season, and Jerebko is down for $5 million, but the Celts can opt out of those deals by serving notice by midnight Sunday (July 3rd).
He declined to comment on impending free agents Evan Turner (unrestricted), Jared Sullinger (restricted) and Tyler Zeller (restricted) — beyond saying that Turner had a “good year” — and said “nothing has been decided” on the contract options for Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson.
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“I think sometimes teams make false assumptions of their team based on things like that. I think that our team is not that much different than a lot of our competition in the East. I think we had a good year in spite of some injuries, you know, with [Al] Horford going down early and Isaiah [Thomas] missing a short time and Avery [Bradley] missing 22 games there in a stretch. We had to overcome some injuries, and it was good because our depth got a chance to play. Everybody on our roster got a chance to prove their worth. “But I feel like it doesn’t really matter what we’ve accomplished. If we’d lost Game 7 against the Wizards, I don’t feel any different than if we’re where we are today. I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great. I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”
“Just because you’re one piece away doesn’t mean you can get it. And if you force yourself to get it, and if you force a deal or force yourself to get the second best available or the third or fourth best available player at that position that you need, then it might not make you that much better or make you still not good enough, and you’re stuck. So, yeah, we’re not that far away, but we’re still a ways away. We still know we need to get better. Everybody in our organization knows we need to get better. We need to add.”
That competitive spirit is what led ESPN to outbidding Fox and others for top NBA rights. It’s what led ESPN to rebuilding its NBA coverage from the top down, bringing in Wildes and others to help bring life to the discourse. “Basketball is a cool sport,” Elhassan says, echoing Wildes. And in that sense, it’s at the front of the innovation curve as well. One question asked to every person interviewed for this story was whether these tone changes only made sense for the NBA’s younger, more diverse audience.
Expect more Sidecasts in the future, though probably not for the Finals because of differences between ABC and ESPN rights deals. The ESPN3 platform also features streaming pregame warmup video, as alternative viewing options are further explored. Second-screen viewership was an important factor in the decision to bring on Wojnarowski, too. The NBA’s foremost news-breaker was allowed to create The Vertical on Yahoo Sports in early 2016, with an emphasis on news, video analysis and podcasts. But the best asset for ESPN may end up being The Vertical’s live Web shows for the NBA draft and free agency that drew millions of viewers desperate for the best information fastest.