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Luke Kornet signs Exhibit 10 contract with Celtics

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Luke Kornet returns to the Celtics on a deal likely to land him with the Maine Celtics.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Luke Kornet stuck out to Brad Stevens for some time before the Celtics acquired the former Bulls and Knicks stretch seven-footer in a trade deadline deal for Daniel Theis. Stevens used him liberally in a front court during a season where Robert Williams III battled injuries and Tristan Thompson fought COVID-19. Now, he’ll return for training camp, albeit in a smaller role in a bolstered front court.

The Celtics signed Kornet to an Exhibit 10 contract on Wednesday, according to Chris Grenham, making him the second of Boston’s training camp invites after adding Juwan Morgan earlier in the day. Kornet could feasibly win a roster spot through an Exhibit 10 deal, but it’s more likely the contract will be used to route him to the Maine Celtics. Boston has Al Horford, Bruno Fernando, Enes Kanter Jabari Parker, Grant Williams and Robert Williams III in the front court already.

Moe Wagner and Kornet joined the Celtics late on trade deadline day after Boston added roughly $17-million in salary in the Evan Fournier. Danny Ainge sent out Theis’ expiring $5-million contract to get below the luxury tax line that Fournier briefly put Boston above. Theis played out the season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $35.6-million contract with the Rockets.

Many expected the more-known Wagner to stick on with the Celtics and receive opportunity in the front court. As he struggled to avoid fouling and Kornet helped Boston secure a comeback victory over the Thunder midway through the year, the Celtics released Wagner instead of Kornet to add Jabari Parker on a two-year deal later in the season. Kornet impressed Boston’s staff with his ability to slide his feet and defend the pick-and-roll at 7’2”.

Kornet played 18 games with the Celtics, starting two, while averaging 4.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 14.1 minutes per game. His offense lagged, as he struggled to stretch the floor as his pedigree originally presented, hitting only 25% of his 36 attempts from three. He shot 47.3% overall from the field.

He’ll be 26 next season and as Nicole, his sister, told me on Dome Theory on CLNS Media in the spring, Kornet hopes to stay close to the NBA unlike his father Frank, who played for the Bucks from 1989-1991 before turning toward an overseas career. The elder Kornet believed, Nicole said, that leaving the US played a role in his NBA career ending prematurely and influenced Luke to take the first two-way contract in NBA history with the Knicks after the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Exhibit 10 deal isn’t as sure of a path to NBA minutes. It’s unlikely Kornet plays in Boston this year unless the Celtics get ravaged by injuries or COVID-19. These contracts offer players a bonus in the $5-50,000 range for attending training camp, then staying with an affiliate G-League team for at least 60 days. Teams can hypothetically use up to six Exhibit 10 contracts to fill out a 20-man training camp roster, then funnel those players to the G-League.

Some Exhibit 10 players can become two-way players, though Stevens said the Celtics will likely look toward post-training camp buyouts to fill their second two-way spot alongside Sam Hauser. NBA training camps open Sept. 28.