In many respects, the Maine Red Claws are coming off their best season.

Abdel Nader was named the NBA Development League’s Rookie of the Year. Marcus Georges-Hunt (Miami, Orlando) and Ryan Kelley (Atlanta) earned NBA call-ups. Coach Scott Morrison led the Claws to a third straight Atlantic Division title. The team won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history before being swept in the Eastern Conference finals.

“We won our division and won a playoff series,” Morrison said during a break in exit interviews. “So even if we were disappointed in some things that did or didn’t happen this year, in the big picture of the organization we did pretty well.”

There are sure to be changes in the roster – and possibly the coaching staff – when the franchise begins its ninth season in November.

The Claws went 95-55 in three seasons under Morrison, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he returns for a fourth season as head coach. None of his predecessors lasted more than two seasons.

“I don’t think that’s the plan, but I don’t make those decisions,” said Dave Lewin, scouting director for the parent Boston Celtics and general manager of the Red Claws. “We see the D-League as a steppingstone.”

Whether Morrison winds up on the Celtics’ staff or as an assistant with some other NBA club, he is a proven winner at the D-League level. Under a new collective bargaining agreement, NBA rosters will expand next season to include 16th and 17th spots for two-way players who earn one salary in the D-League ($75,000 – three times the current top tier) and another for up to 45 days in the NBA (a pro-rated share of the $815,000 minimum).

“I think the league’s going to see a quick jump in talent level,” Morrison said. “I’m guessing more of those second-round picks that are getting stashed in Europe or in the D-League might be in those 16-17 two-way spots. If not, they’ll attract some good players in those spots who are currently overseas.”

Parent clubs can continue to designate to their D-League affiliate four players from their preseason training camps who fail to make their NBA rosters. This season, the Celtics designated Georges-Hunt, Kelly, Jalen Jones and Damion Lee to the Claws. Nader and late-season addition Guerschon Yabusele were both draft-rights players, meaning the Celtics controlled their rights without having placed them on the team’s NBA roster.

Celtics rookie point guard Demetrius Jackson played in 32 games for Maine and five for Boston. Second-year center Jordan Mickey played in 12 for Maine, 25 for Boston. Both played in all five D-League playoff games.

“We don’t really evaluate it in terms of wins or losses or playoff series,” Lewin said of Boston’s perspective on its minor-league affiliate. “We want our players to be involved in a culture of winning and to be in a highly-competitive atmosphere. So I’m really happy that the guys got to be a part of that.”

On Tuesday, Nader was named to the All NBA D-League second team, and Jones and Georges-Hunt were named to the third team.

The core players from last winter’s Red Claws lineup are playing overseas for bigger paychecks this season. Levi Randolph is in Italy, Malcolm Miller in Germany, Corey Walden in Belgium and Coty Clarke in Russia. Coron Williams and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum were the only holdovers to last through the season.

Considering the Celtics have four draft picks (one first round, three seconds) this June, another D-League roster overhaul is likely.

“I hope everyone moves on to something bigger and better, but there always seems to be one or two who come back,” Morrison said. “It hasn’t really been our philosophy to try and retain them. It’s been our philosophy to try and help them get something better paid or better exposure, whatever the case may be.”

Despite their success on the court, the Red Claws saw attendance creep down for an eighth straight season, from 52,723 last winter to 50,644. Their first two seasons they sold out every home game, drawing over 73,000 in both 2009-10 and 2010-11.

“Our first two years were pretty incredible, but after that we’ve been pretty steady,” said Bill Ryan Jr., majority owner. “It’s not an easy business by any stretch of the imagination.”

Ryan pointed to the league’s growth from 16 franchises to its current 22 resulting in more weeknight games, which typically draw smaller crowds. The Claws had six such dates, making up a quarter of their home season.

“We’re not really concerned,” Ryan said. “Obviously, we’d love to fill it every game, but business-wise, we still do well. I was actually really happy with the end of the season. I think we were at or near a sellout for the last 10 games of the season and the playoffs.”

The current Red Claws-Celtics affiliation agreement has another year remaining. Both sides appear happy with the arrangement and proximity.

“We’re thrilled,” said Lewin, who has served as Red Claws GM for three years. “We love the ownership in Maine. We love the fan base. We love the experience our players have in Maine.”

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