Boston Celtics

Atlantic Notes: Rondo, Ainge, Brand

Celtics executive Danny Ainge is expected to be active leading up to this year’s trade deadline and would be willing to deal away significant assets, but only if it would land a “special player,” A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com relays. “It depends on the player and it depends on his age and it depends on the probability of us re-signing him,” Ainge said during an appearance on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” show. “But most of the time I would say no, I would not give up [significant assets]. If you’re risking very little, it might be worth the risk. But I would never risk a lot for a small chance unless that player’s one of the top four or five players in the game.” Boston owns the Nets’ first-rounder in this year’s NBA draft, a pick that is likely to be in the top five. The team has reportedly been involved in recent trade talks with the Rockets regarding Dwight Howard and with the Nuggets about Danilo Gallinari.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are going to attempt to upgrade their point guard position this offseason, but Kings playmaker Rajon Rondo likely won’t be the solution, Ian Begley of ESPN.com writes. At issue for Rondo is New York’s triangle offense, which isn’t a point guard dominated system, Begley notes. When asked if the Knicks were a possibility for him in the future, Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, said, “The triangle’s not really a good look for me, I don’t think.
  • Elton Brand wound up with the Sixers because of his value as a leader, something that Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer says the veteran excels at being, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He is going to bring [leadership to the 76ers] in multitudes of hundreds or thousands,” Budenholzer said. “He’s one of the most incredible leaders I’ve ever been around. And as a person. To have person like that in your locker room every day, in your practice every day, on your bench every day, I think it’s huge value. It was a move that made sense for both of them. For the organization, it’s a really smart move. For Elton, to decide he wanted to get back and help the Sixers organization and help these young players and give back speaks a lot to his character and what kind of guy he is.

Atlantic Notes: Rozier, Hinkie, Raptors

When asked what the Sixers need to move ahead in their rebuilding process, GM Sam Hinkie said Philadelphia needs to find talented players capable of leading the team deep into the playoffs, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays. “That’s critical,” Hinkie said. “We have several on the roster. We’ll need more. There’s not any one position or any one type of player. We’ll need talented players to take us to the next level.” Philadelphia will look to the upcoming draft in its pursuit of impact players, though Hinkie was coy on whom the franchise was targeting come June and would only say they want “gifted” players, Pompey adds. “Gifted ones that are wildly competitive, that want to be great in their craft, that have been blessed with real gifts, size and length and the like,” Hinkie said. “Turn on a late West Coast game and watch who’s lighting the league on fire now. You’ll see examples of it.

Asked if the team would focus on the backcourt after going big the past two drafts despite the small-ball trend in the NBA, Hinkie told the Inquirer scribe, “I don’t think the league is going any one particular way, where you have to have this or that. You can look at our team and say we need more of this, and that makes sense too. We’re still after how do we put the building blocks in place.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • On a Celtics team that is laden with guards, rookie Terry Rozier has only appeared in 18 contests this season, but he is refusing to allow that to diminish his enthusiasm to be in the league, Spencer Davies of AmicoHoops.net relays. “It’ll all work out,” Rozier told Davies. “I don’t really worry about the naysayers or the things that are going on right now, because I know at the end of the day — I know I’m working. I know it’ll happen for me.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is familiar with the Raptors organization, with his father, Brendan Malone, having been the team’s first head coach in 1995/96. The younger Malone is impressed with how far the Toronto basketball culture has grown over the years, Chris O’Leary of The Toronto Star writes. “They’ve come a long way in so many areas,” Malone said. “I can remember my father as the first coach in Raptors history trying to educate the fans but also the media. A lot of the guys that covered the Raptors at the time really weren’t [knowledgeable] so he would have sessions after practice with the media talking just about the game of basketball.

And-Ones: Celtics, Sixers, Bender, Free Agency

The unprotected first-rounder that the Nets owe the Celtics for this year’s draft is available for the right price, Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday in an appearance on the “Dale & Holley with Thornton” show on WEEI radio. That price is high, Ainge cautioned. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News wrote earlier this week that the pick was “definitely not available,” but while that might not technically be true, it sounds like that’s effectively the case for all but the most enticing offers.

“It would have to be, certainly, a very good player. And also it probably wouldn’t be someone in their 30s,” Ainge said to the radio hosts. “That would have to be a good young player, because again, even if we had a 5% or a 10% or a 15% chance at one of the top picks in the draft, that’€™s worth keeping.”

The Nets pick is No. 3 in the lottery order for now, as our Reverse Standings show, so if that position holds, it would give the Celtics a 17.8% chance at the No. 1 pick and about 50-50 odds of picking somewhere in the top three. See more from around the NBA:

  • Brett Brown understands the Sixers front office has the task of improving the team for the future, and the roster he has isn’t exactly a coach’s dream, but he would prefer that Philadelphia stands pat at the trade deadline, as he told Tom Moore of Calkins Media“All coaches beg for consistency,” Brown said. “You feel like your teaching message, your purpose, your points of emphasis have a chance to resonate and be delivered and improved upon better with time.” 
  • Versatility and an underrated toughness are some of the qualities that make Dragan Bender easily the top overseas prospect for the 2016 draft, but as the draft’s youngest prospect, his frame isn’t close to being ready to handle the NBA, according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Still, he’ll almost certainly enter the draft this year, Givony hears, and his vast potential has him No. 3 in Givony’s prospect rankings.
  • The ability to match competing bids in the summer, an understanding of the player’s contract demands from the extension window, and low rookie scale salaries are reasons why soon-to-be restricted free agents are intriguing trade candidates, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller posits, offering a few names as particularly interesting cases.

Western Notes: Griffin, Howard, Carter, Warriors

The Clippers plan to make a concerted effort to look for Blake Griffin trades if they don’t make a long playoff run this spring, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports (video link). That’s regardless of whether an opportunity arises to swap Griffin for Kevin Durant, a move the Clippers wouldn’t hesitate to make, according to Wojnarowski. Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers suggested before the season that he would be open to major changes if the team disappointed in the playoffs, as Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported, adding that it appears as though Rivers isn’t eager to trade any members of the team’s core before the trade deadline this month. See more from the Western Conference:

  • The Celtics aren’t the only team the Rockets have engaged about Dwight Howard, but it’s unlikely a Howard trade happens this season as Houston isn’t shopping him so much as gauging his market value, reports Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Three executives from around the league told Mannix they wouldn’t approach the max in an offer to Howard in free agency this summer, and an Eastern Conference GM pegged a fair contract for him at three years and $60MM, Mannix relays.
  • Vince Carter plans to play next season, which would be his 18th in the NBA, and while he’s taking a year-by-year approach, he’d like to play 20 seasons, notes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Carter’s salary of more than $4.264MM for next season is partially guaranteed for $2MM, and fellow Commercial Appeal scribe Chris Herrington suggested recently that the Grizzlies will “almost certainly” waive him this summer and pocket the savings. Still, coach Dave Joerger expressed a fondness for the veteran swingman, as Tillery relays.
  • Executives from other teams know that so much as asking the Warriors about any of the key players on their roster would be ill-advised, writes Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports as he analyzes Golden State’s trade assets.

Latest On Danilo Gallinari, Celtics

The Celtics have aggressively pursued a trade for Danilo Gallinari, but the Nuggets have consistently rebuffed them, Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports said in a radio appearance on the “Toucher & Rich” show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link via CSNNE.com). That confirms a report last week from Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi, who heard that the Celtics were targeting Gallinari and that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was keen on his shooting ability and leadership skills. The Nuggets are similarly enamored with the Italian-born small forward, and they want to build around him, Mannix said.

Denver has set a high bar for Gallinari offers, demanding at least two first-rounders, according to Cauchi, and he and Emmanuel Mudiay are among the few Nuggets the team would object to parting with, as Mannix explained. The Celtics have no shortage of draft assets, but the unprotected 2016 first-rounder they have from the Nets is “definitely not available,” writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

The Gallinari talks with the Celtics never amounted to more than a conversation, even though the Nuggets are otherwise “open for business,” Mannix said. Gallinari became eligible for inclusion in a trade just this week on the six-month anniversary of the rare renegotiation-and-extension he signed over the summer. That deal gives the 27-year-old salaries that add up to $45.15MM from this season through 2017/18, though he can opt out after next season.

The Celtics have also been linked to Dwight Howard with several conflicting reports. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who first reported the discussion between Houston and Boston, wrote that the Celtics had engaged the Rockets, but Mannix said Houston initiated the dialogue.

Atlantic Notes: Hinkie, Jerebko, Johnson

Stan Van Gundy, who holds a dual role with the Pistons as executive and coach, says if the Nets intend to hire separate people to fill their vacant GM and coaching slots they should begin with finding a GM, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “I don’t think you can hire — if you’re going to hire two people, you can’t hire the employee before the boss,” said Van Gundy. “That just doesn’t make any sense to me. And that’s immediately going to create tension, right there, [that] the guy that’s your boss, that you report to … didn’t hire you? I mean, we see it in college coaching all the time. It’s tenuous, anyway, but if you were there before and there’s a new AD [athletic director] coming in, good luck to you. The guy’s looking for the first sign [to fire you]. Whereas if the guy hires you, he’s got a little more tendency to give you the benefit of the doubt because it reflects upon him. So if you’re going to hire two, to me you’ve got to hire the GM first. He’s got to have say in who he has as a coach.

Here’s the latest from out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers GM Sam Hinkie says that he views new team executive Jerry Colangelo as a co-worker who is on equal footing as himself and not necessarily as his boss, Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays. When asked if he viewed Colangelo as a potential threat to his position, Hinkie said, “I’m a big believer in the meritocracy of ideas, and your idea had better stand up to scrutiny from all sides. You’d better know your opponents’ arguments better than they do if you want to truly understand what’s best. So I don’t mind the thought that there might be debate about any particular topic.
  • Despite seeing sporadic playing time early in the season, Raptors power forward James Johnson has been a model teammate and has continued to work hard to contribute on the defensive end, Ryan Wolstat of The National Post writes. Johnson is on an expiring contract.
  • Jonas Jerebko insists he has no regrets about re-signing with the Celtics this past offseason despite averaging only 13.7 minutes per game this season, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com writes. “Like I’ve said before, I just want to stay ready when my opportunity comes,” Jerebko told Blakely. “You know with coach [Brad] Stevens that sooner or later, you’re going to get your chance. It’s just a matter of being ready for it and making the most of it. That’s what I try to do every chance I get to play.”

Celtics, Rockets Talk Dwight Howard Trade

4:46pm: The Rockets have indeed engaged in trade talks with teams regarding Howard, but the asking price is reportedly very steep and Houston is not merely looking to dump him, Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports tweets.

2:55pm: The teams never really had a negotiation, multiple league sources told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, who explains that the trade proposal quickly died after a brief exchange. Still, the Rockets have made efforts to trade Howard, Bulpett hears.

10:37am: The talks aren’t expected to progress past the discussion phase, a league source tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. Blakely suggests the Celtics would have to include David Lee, plus additional players, draft assets, or both to make any Howard trade work. Boston has reportedly made Lee available and the Celtics and Lee’s representatives are cooperating as they explore trade options for him, Blakely adds.

7:58am: The Celtics have engaged the Rockets in trade talks about Dwight Howard, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports amid a larger piece. It’s unclear how receptive Houston has been to the idea of trading the former All-Star center or how aggressively Boston is pursuing him. The 30-year-old Howard has a player option worth more than $23.282MM for next season, but the Rockets reportedly expect him to turn it down, no surprise given that he’d be eligible for a maximum salary of a projected $29.3MM in free agency.

Howard has been relatively healthy this season after missing 41 games last year and has been regularly playing in back-to-backs after having been held out of them at the beginning of the season. Still, he’s averaging 14.4 points on 8.6 shots per game, his lowest numbers in either categories since he was a 19-year-old rookie in 2004/05. His 1.6 blocks per game are relatively low compared to the number of shots he swatted in years past, including a career-high 2.9 in 2008/09, but he’d still represent the sort of rim-protecting force the Celtics have lacked.

The Dan Fegan client, along with others on the Rockets, denied a report in December that he’s “extremely unhappy” with his role in Houston. Gauging his level of contentment in either Houston or with a would-be trade to Boston would undoubtedly be key if the trade discussions reach any advanced stage, since he can walk as a free agent at season’s end.

The Celtics and Rockets both have a surplus of point guards and power forwards, so it’s difficult to see how the sides could help each other in a swap. Still, Rockets GM Daryl Morey used to work under Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, so it’s not surprising to see them have a dialogue.

Where do you think Dwight Howard will be playing next season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Celtics Intend To Trade David Lee Or Work Buyout

The Celtics intend to either trade David Lee by the February 18th deadline or work a buyout with him, as the power forward who’s out of the rotation would like to play elsewhere, according to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck (Twitter link). Boston made him available several weeks ago, as TNT’s David Aldridge reported in December, and A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com wrote this morning that Lee and his representatives are cooperating with the Celtics to funnel him to a new team.

Blakely suggests it would take the inclusion of Lee, plus other assets, for a deal with the Rockets for Dwight Howard to work, but those apparent talks between Houston and Boston aren’t expected to blossom into more than just a discussion, the CSNNE.com scribe hears. Lee said a month ago that it was more frustrating for him not to receive playing time on this year’s Celtics than it was for him on last year’s title-winning Warriors, though he was careful not to stir controversy as he spoke of his frustration and disagreement with coach Brad Stevens‘ decision to remove him from the rotation. The former All-Star is averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per contest this season but hasn’t appeared in a game since January 10th.

Lee is on an expiring contract that gives him a salary of nearly $15.494MM. That’s a difficult number for trade purposes, as only the Trail Blazers have the cap space necessary to absorb him without sending out a comparable amount of salary. No team has a trade exception large enough to accommodate Lee. Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors shared some ideas for Lee swaps this past weekend amid his broader look at the 32-year-old’s trade candidacy.

The Celtics and Lee would face a de facto deadline of March 1st, the last day players can hit waivers and still be eligible to play in the postseason for another team, to arrange a buyout if he remains in Boston past the trade deadline. It’s unclear how much salary the Mark Bartelstein client would consider sacrificing in such an arrangement.

Do you see a fit for Lee on another team? Share your ideas with a comment.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Karasev, Karnisovas, Rosas

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck doubts the team will make a major move at the trade deadline, as he said in a recent radio appearance on the “Felger and Mazz” show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (video link). Boston is clinging fast to draft assets that include two likely first-round picks for this June in addition to its own.

“I think we’ll do something. Will it be transformative? I don’t know,” Grousbeck said. “There are only a few players we’d be willing to make a transformative move for because the picks could be good. I think the odds are pretty slim you do a transformative trade.”

See more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sergey Karasev is supportive of David Blatt‘s reported candidacy for the Nets coaching vacancy, as he said on the “Sports interest” show on Russia’s Match TV, NetsDaily notes. Karasev, who played for Blatt on the Russian national team, also indicated a desire to stay in Brooklyn, according to NetsDaily. The team declined its $2,463,754 option on his rookie scale contract for next season and can’t re-sign him to a deal with a starting salary greater than that amount.
  • NetsDaily, in a pair of pieces, examines reported Nets GM candidates Arturas Karnisovas and Gersson Rosas. Both shared time in the Rockets front office and stand as relatively unknown quantities compared to former NBA GMs Bryan Colangelo and Danny Ferry, who are also reportedly up for the job.
  • Questions surround just how the Sixers view the progress of Joel Embiid‘s recovery and their internal projections for Dario Saric, but the central issue at play as the trade deadline approaches is what the team wants to do with Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, as Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer examines.

And-Ones: Lee, Gasol, Griffin

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has had conversations with David Lee and his representatives regarding the power forward’s future with Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com reports. Our own Chris Crouse examined Lee as a trade candidate earlier today. The Celtics are open to moving to moving Lee, who is set to be a free agent after the season. Ainge would not detail to Blakely what the conversation was about, but did compliment Lee for dealing with what many would label as a difficult situation; Lee, who has experienced plenty of success over his 10-year career, is no longer in the Celtics’ rotation.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Pau Gasol‘s new agent is Steven Heumann of Creative Artists Agency, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune confirms. Gasol hired Creative Artists Agency to represent him earlier this month. The Bulls are familiar with the firm because the agency is headed by Leon Rose, who represented former coach Tom Thibodeau, Johnson adds. Gasol possesses a player option worth $7,769,520 for 2016/17 and has said that he’s leaning toward opting out of his contract this summer.
  • The NBA’s investigation of Blake Griffin‘s fight with an assistant equipment manager is still ongoing Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reports. Broussard previously reported that the investigation was complete. There is no timetable for an announcement regarding any discipline for Griffin, per Broussard.
  • Center Tyson Chandler remains committed to Phoenix despite the Suns‘ disappointing season, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News relays. The Suns signed Chandler to a four-year, $52MM deal this past summer after his productive season with the Mavs. “I’m not jumping ship,” Chandler said. “If the organization decides to move me or something like that, then clearly, that’s something that’s out of my control. But I came here for a reason. I thought it was a young, promising team and I wanted to be a part of helping turn this around and help go to the next level. And I feel like I’m capable of doing that and this organization is capable of doing it. Clearly some things have to change.”

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