Craig Sager, famous to a generation of NBA fans for his flashy suits, died of cancer on Thursday, Turner Sports announced.

TNT's Craig Sager was known as a loud dresser and spot-on interviewer. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

TNT’s Craig Sager was known as a loud dresser and spot-on interviewer. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Craig Sager, famous to a generation of NBA fans for his flashy suits, died of cancer on Thursday, Turner Sports announced.

Sager, 65, had battled leukemia since 2014. He announced this past March that the disease had returned after entering remission. Given no more than six months to live, he vowed to fight. 

“‘Craig Sager was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than three decades and he has been a true inspiration to all of us,” Turner President David Levy said in a statement. “There will never be another Craig Sager. His incredible talent, tireless work ethic and commitment to his craft took him all over the world covering sports.”

Sager covered the NBA on TNT for 25 years, earning notoriety not just for his loud wardrobe, but his persistent interviewing style that made unlikely fans of difficult personalities like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who enjoyed sparring with him and once referred to him as “an iconic figure in the NBA.”

Sager graduated from Northwestern and covered a variety of sports over his career, making a name for himself by covering Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in 1974. He went on to cover the Olympics, baseball, the NFL, and college basketball, but he rose to fame as a sideline interviewer for TNT.

He leaves his wife, Stacy, and five children.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Danny Ainge’s hunt for a superstar continues.

Noted NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said on his Vertical podcast (fast-forward to 35-minute mark) on Wednesday that Ainge is itching to pull the trigger on a deal for a star, but as usual is finding the going rough.

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge’s hunt for a superstar continues.

Noted NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said on his Vertical podcast (fast-forward to 35-minute mark) on Wednesday that Ainge is itching to pull the trigger on a deal for a star, but as usual is finding the going rough.

One name to keep an eye on: impending free agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, who played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler and has emerged as a potential All-Star this year.

“Danny’s wanted to strike and, like everybody else, get that big star, get that big player,” Wojnarowski said. “[Al] Horford was a big play and a great get in free agency. They can still keep their eye on Gordon Hayward from Utah who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer who played for Brad Stevens at Butler. I think there’s still strong hope in Utah that he’ll want to stay there.”

One problem hamstringing Ainge, according to Wojnarowski, is that he’s overvaluing players in trade talks, particularly misfiring guard Marcus Smart.

“Boston’s interesting in that (they have) some good young players, they have draft picks they can put in deals and they have some veterans that hold some interest in places,” Wojnarowski added. “I do wonder sometimes if Boston might overvalue some of the players they have compared to what the rest of the league sees in them. I think Marcus Smart might be starting to fall into that category. His name’s been in some talks previously, and they’ve been pretty careful about who they’d give him up for.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Celtics coach Brad Stevens can continue to preach patience, but his team looks as frustrated as its fans as it continues to plod along, losing to every good team it faces.

Al Horford looks to pass as Danny Green attempts to defend during Wednesday's game in San Antonio. (Soobum Im/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford looks to pass as Danny Green attempts to defend during Wednesday’s game in San Antonio. (Soobum Im/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens can continue to preach patience, but his team looks as frustrated as its fans as it continues to plod along, losing to every good team it faces.

Wednesday night’s 108-101 loss to the Spurs comes as no surprise — especially with Isaiah Thomas still on the shelf. But at some point this team will need to turn a corner if it’s going to live up to preseason expectations.

On the positive side for Boston, Avery Bradley continued his strong play of late, recording 25 points (10-of-16 shooting), 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Jae Crowder scored 15 points, Al Horford netted 13, Terry Rozier chipped in with 12 in 25 minutes off the bench, and Marcus Smart had 11 points and six assists.

Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 26 points, and he added six assists. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Tony Parker scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists.

Manu Ginobili (12), Dewayne Dedmon (10) and Patty Mills (10) also scored in double figures for the home team.

David Lee again hurt the C’s. The onetime Celtic, starting in place of LaMarcus Aldridge (rest), finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. In the teams’ previous meeting on Nov. 25, Lee had 15 points and 12 assists in the Spurs’ 109-103 win.

With 1:38 left, Lee made a big play, tapping out an offensive rebound to thwart the C’s momentum after they had cut a 15-point lead to seven in a span of three minutes.

“[Lee’s] really got a good basketball mind,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told ESPN during an interview before the fourth quarter. “He understands the game innately.”

The Celtics were playing catch-up all night. They trailed by nine at the half and by 15 five minutes into the third quarter. The San Antonio lead was 13 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third, but Boston then embarked on a 14-2 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes, with seven of the points coming from Horford. Pau Gasol hit a corner 3 with 46 seconds left in the period to make it 77-73 heading into the final quarter.

Again San Antonio built the lead to 15 midway with 4 1/2 minutes left in the game at 100-85, as the C’s just could not contain Leonard, Gasol and Parker.

The Celtics played their fourth straight game without Thomas (strained groin). They hope to have him back for Friday’s home game vs. the Hornets.

The Spurs now have beaten the Celtics 11 straight times.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

USATSI_9722107_168382898_lowres

Brad Stevens is looking for his first win over the Spurs (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

After back-to-back losses to the Raptors and Thunder, respectively, the Celtics schedule doesn’t get any easier as the C’s head to San Antonio to take on the second-best team in the league without their best player.

Without Isaiah Thomas (groin), the Celtics will face a tall task of pulling off an upset on national TV – ESPN— and prove how good they are without their All-Star guard.

Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, the Spurs haven’t lost a game at home since Nov. 29 – a surprising loss, not only because it was against the Magic but because the Spurs suffered only one loss at home last season (40-1) and are already 6-4 this year at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio actually plays better on the road (13-1) than at home but that certainly doesn’t negate the fact that the Celtics will have their hands full on Wednesday.

Although the Celtics aren’t the only ones playing without a member of their starting unit on Wednesday – Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) will sit out against the Celtics – San Antonio still has plenty of firepower behind the rest of their starting unit and guys who can produce off the bench.

However, if the Celtics are to pull off what would be their biggest win of the season, here are five things that would go a long way toward helping that happen.

1. Jae Crowder comes through with his season-best effort

Coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss eight straight games, it only took Crowder two games to find his offensive rhythm. The scrappy small forward followed up a 15-point, 6-of-11 performance in Brooklyn on Nov. 23 by scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 attempts against the Spurs at home.

He’s quietly shooting the ball very well this month. In six games, Crowder is shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and averaging 13.3 points. With Thomas (groin) sidelined for his fourth straight game, Crowder is due to have a breakout night. After scoring the Celtics’ first nine points against the Thunder on Sunday, he was on pace for a big offensive night but foul trouble deterred his momentum as he fouled out at the 3:19 mark of the fourth quarter, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-9 shots, including 3-of-4 from deep in 27 minutes.

If the Celtics are going to defeat the Spurs, they’re going to need scoring from guys other than Al Horford and Avery Bradley. In Thomas’ absence, Bradley and Horford are averaging a combined 36 points. They’re going to need Crowder’s scoring against the Spurs, as well as his terrific defense on the wing in order to give Brad Stevens his first win against San Antonio.

2. Limit San Antonio to less than 40 points in the paint

No LaMarcus Aldridge, no problem, right? Eh, easier said than done.

With Aldridge (rest) sitting out on the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics still have plenty of other players to worry about but not having Aldridge in the mix certainly helps, a little.

Celtics are 3-3 in their last six outings – in all three of their wins, the C’s limited their opponent to 38 points or less in the paint. In a narrow 109-103 win, the Spurs only scored 30 points down low in their last meeting against the Celtics, look for coach Gregg Popovich to expose the Celtics’ lack of interior defense. Boston is coming off a game where they allowed a whopping 66 points in the post against the Thunder and the Spurs have plenty of players like Kawhi Leonard and David Lee – who finished 4-of-7 in the paint in their last meeting – who can finish strong down low.

3. Free-throw attempts

The Celtics are fourth in the league in fewest free-throws attempted (20.3) per game. After attempting a season-low eight shots from the charity stripe against the Thunder on Sunday, the Brad Stevens has to find a way to get his guys to the line.

Guess which team the Celtics only attempted nine free-throws against, their second lowest free-throws attempted in one game this season.

The Spurs.

That’s not going to cut it in San Antonio. Whether it means finding Al Horford in the post, setting up backdoor plays for Bradley and Crowder or forcing his guards put the ball on the floor more often, Stevens has to find a way to draw fouls against the Spurs. Free-throws will be very important in this matchup as well as inside scoring.

4. Points off turnovers

Although the Spurs commit only 12.8 turnovers per game, the Celtics forced 17 Spurs turnovers in their last meeting. This helped the Celtics gain some momentum on the offensive – giving them more possessions in the fourth quarter that the C’s failed to capitalize on.

In what was one of their better efficient offensive games of the season, the Celtics only committed 10 turnovers – which gave them a chance to pull close in the final minutes before coming up short. Boston will need as many opportunities as they can get in San Antonio. It starts on the defensive side and ends on how strong their offense can finish on the other end of the floor.  

5. Celtics bench scoring

Brad Stevens is going to need 30 or more points out of his bench. With Marcus Smart starting in place of Thomas, the Celtics bench has proven that they can still score without their sixth man. In their last two outings, the Celtics reserves combined for 24 points against the Thunder and 32 against the Raptors, respectively.

Coming off an impressive fourth quarter in Oklahoma City where he scored 10 points in four minutes, rookie Jaylen Brown will be very important for this bench group. Brown, who finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Nov. 3, proved that he isn’t afraid to perform in front of national TV’s bright lights. If he can carry over his offensive momentum from Oklahoma City to San Antonio, it will put the Celtics in great position for a win.

It won’t be easy for the league’s third overall pick but with Kelly Olynyk and Terry Rozier shooting 25.4 and 29.1 percent, respectively in their last two outings, this is the time for Brown to step up. With an excellent performance from the rookie, the Celtics bench should be able to have themselves an offensively productive night.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Ben Kichen of the “Dale and Holley Show” discuss the latest news on the injury that has kept Isaiah Thomas off the court and how valuable it is for Marcus Smart to stay in control.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Isaiah Thomas will miss his fourth straight game when he skips Wednesday night’s matchup vs. the Spurs in San Antonio. Thomas, dealing with a strained groin, did not travel on the team’s two-game road trip that started in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, but there was speculation that he might join the team in Texas if he was cleared to return.

WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Ben Kichen of the "Dale and Holley Show" discuss the latest news on the injury that has kept Isaiah Thomas off the court and how valuable it is for Marcus Smart to stay in control.

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