Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Ainge, A. Rivers, Raptors

After falling two games below .500 last Wednesday, the Celtics have turned things around in the last week. Boston won its third straight game on Tuesday night, as an impressive victory over the Clippers put the team back over .500 and into the No. 4 seed in the East.

Still, an 18-17 record represents an underwhelming first half for a team that was widely viewed as one of the top threats to come out of the East entering the season. In his attempt to determine what’s gone wrong with the Celtics, Tim Bontemps of ESPN spoke to executives who pointed to Kemba Walker‘s slow start as one factor the club has struggled to overcome.

“He can still provide value,” one Western Conference executive said of the Celtics’ point guard. “But is he worth $35 million? Is he worth that number? That’s tough (to build around) if he isn’t.”

The general consensus among Bontemps’ sources is that the Celtics will need to make some sort of trade before the deadline if they want to have a legit chance to make a deep playoff run this spring. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been reluctant to make in-season trades in the past, with one Western executive suggesting the C’s will only make a move “if they think they’re going to bury you.” However, given how well Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have played, the time looks right for Boston to try to upgrade its roster and get its rising young stars some help.

“There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” one East executive told Bontemps. “You have to make that commitment to them.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Ainge facing some criticism for the Celtics‘ up-and-down season and the team’s lack of depth, Zach Kram of The Ringer takes a closer look at the veteran executive’s résumé to determine whether or not the bad moves have outweighed the good ones over the last decade.
  • Even without Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton available on Tuesday, veteran guard Austin Rivers couldn’t crack the Knicks‘ rotation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. After not being on New York’s bench at all on Saturday, Rivers has been there for the team’s last two contests, but he hasn’t actually gotten onto the court since he played a couple garbage-time minutes on February 13. He’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline.
  • While the Raptors‘ greatest need may be at center, the team could very well explore the market for wings and/or forwards this month as well. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic considers some possible targets for Toronto, including Thaddeus Young, P.J. Tucker, and James Ennis.
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