Al Horford

Latest On LeBron James’ Future

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert cannot offer LeBron James a stake in the franchise in an effort to retain his services, Michael McCann and Jon Wortheim of Sports Illustrated point out. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from holding direct or indirect interest in the ownership of a team, thus the NBA would not approve a contract with any type of ownership provision, the story continues. The league has also been vigilant in preventing players and owners from intermingling their business interests, the SI duo notes. James can opt out of his contract or try to force a trade to a desired destination this summer.

Here’s some other interesting notes regarding the possibility of James playing elsewhere next season:

  • The Rockets would need to either gut their roster or make a trade with the Cavaliers to add James, but the latter option is complicated by the team’s roster composition, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Cavaliers would likely want quality young talent to kick-start a rebuild in any James trade and the Rockets don’t have enough of those players while trying to match up salaries to absorb James’ $35MM contract, Feigen adds. The most desirable option for the Rockets is to dump Ryan Anderson‘s contract ($20.4MM next season and $21.3 MM in 2019/20) on a team with ample cap room, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN. But Houston probably doesn’t have enough first-round picks to package with Anderson to get a third party to bite, Pelton adds.
  • There are major obstacles to any possible pursuit of James’ services by the Celtics, DJ Bean of NBCSports.com notes. It’s highly unlikely that Boston would include Gordon Hayward in any deal, considering the high-level free agent chose Boston last summer and hasn’t even played a full game with the franchise, Bean continues. There’s also the sticky problem of trying to reunite James with Kyrie Irving, who asked out of Cleveland last summer. Acquiring James now would likely damage the team’s long-term prospects for being the dominant team in the league, given the assets they’d likely have to trade, Bean adds. Logically, the only big contract the Celtics would be willing to move is Al Horford‘s deal, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
  • James’ decision will have more to do with his family than basketball, former teammate Dwyane Wade predicts, as Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald writes. “I don’t really think for him the basketball decision is ‘Oh, let me go team up with three All-Stars.’ I think at this point in his life it’s more so of a lifestyle thing,” Wade said. “Where is my family going to be the most comfortable at? Where am I going to be the happiest at? Because basketball-wise he’s so great, he can take along whoever.”
  • The Lakers and Sixers are the favorites to land James while the Cavs are just a 5-1 shot to retain him, according to Bovada sports book, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The odds rundown can be found here.

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Bridges, Draft Strategy, Leonard

As the Celtics prepare for a Game 7 showdown against the Cavaliers, Al Horford‘s story of redemption in the postseason is an intriguing storyline, Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports writes. In 2015, then a member of the Hawks, Horford thought he was headed for the NBA Finals after two quick postseason series victories. A sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers that year ended those dreams.

Horford has now become a key part of the Celtics’ core and once again, he will need to get past LeBron James and the Cavaliers if he wants to reach the NBA Finals. A disappointing series aside, Horford has been a positive influence on a young Celtics roster that has faced injuries to several of its star players.

“He’s been such a stabilizing force since he walked into our locker room,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “He provides a very calming influence to the younger players.”

Check out more news and notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • While injuries to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward put a damper on the Celtics‘ original plans, the team is still one win away from the NBA Finals. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes that with a healthy roster next season, the Celtics are poised to become the latest NBA super team. One scout Winderman quotes in the story compared a healthy Celtics roster to what the Warriors assembled out west.
  • Both Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges fit the bill for the type of player the Knicks are seeking in the NBA Draft. Both players are roughly the same size, have similar names and are expected to be available when the Knicks select a player with their ninth overall pick. Marc Berman of the New York Post breaks down both players, examining which one is a better fit for New York’s roster.
  • Ian Begley of ESPN has several notes pertaining to the Knicks’ draft strategy for next month. League officials have said that Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. have been mentioned by Knicks officials as possible targets but it’s unlikely either is available by the time the Knicks’ turn comes. Also, Begley notes Mikal Bridges is currently ranked ahead of Miles Bridges by the Knicks.
  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic (subscription required) answers several Sixers-related questions in his latest mailbag. In particular, Bodner addresses the possibility of Philadelphia pursuing Kawhi Leonard and how he would fit on the current roster.

Eastern Finals Notes: Tatum, Horford, James, Love

Cleveland will have to play Game 7 without Kevin Love, but Boston’s Jayson Tatum came away from Friday night’s collision relatively unscathed. Coach Brad Stevens told reporters that doctors checked on Tatum today and said he’s in “great” condition, tweets ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. Tatum will continue to be monitored up to tomorrow’s game, but right now the team isn’t worried about his availability.

Tatum was defending Love when they bumped heads in the first quarter and said it took him a while to shake off the effects, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“They asked me if I was dizzy, if I had a headache,” said Tatum, who underwent concussion testing on the sidelines. “I’m fine.”

There’s more on the eve of Game 7:

  • Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, who barely played when the postseason began, has helped turn the series around with his defense on Al Horford, notes Adam Himmeslbach of The Boston Globe. Cleveland is outscoring Boston by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when they are on the court together, but the Celtics have a 19.2 edge when Horford plays without Thompson. Boston’s big man was visibly frustrated after Friday’s game, which included a healthy dose of double teaming. “If you were watching the game, I was getting doubled as soon as I caught the ball,” Horford said to reporters. “Every time, I didn’t really have one-on-one position. So they did a good job of really doubling me and making it hard.”
  • As bad as the Love injury news was for Cavaliers fans, things could have been worse, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Larry Nance Jr. collided with LeBron James during the fourth quarter on a play that reminded McMenamin of an incident that caused Kevin Durant to miss a significant part of last season. “I just felt someone fall into my leg, and my leg kind of went in,” said James, who was limping when he left the arena. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”
  • Love’s injury means James will likely have to improve on his already-superhuman effort, writes Justin Verrier of The Ringer. Love is averaging 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds in the postseason, but he hasn’t been especially effective against the Celtics, Verrier notes. He has a minus-7.4 net rating in the series, worst on the team other than Rodney Hood.

NBA Announces 2017/18 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its 2017/18 All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with Defensive Player of the Year candidates Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis headlining the First Team.

Gobert led the way in voting, receiving 94 of 100 potential First Team votes. He also received four Second Team votes, and was left off of just two ballots, earning him 192 total points (two points per First Team vote; one point per Second Team vote). It’s his second All-Defensive First Team nod.

[RELATED: NBA Announces 2017/18 All-Rookie Teams]

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), the All-Defensive recognition will pay off financially for Gobert, who earns a $500K bonus as a result of his spot on the First Team. Meanwhile, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday will receive a more modest $100K bonus for being named to the All-Defensive First Team.

Here are the full voting results for the All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with each player’s point total noted in parentheses:

First Team

  • Rudy Gobert, C, Jazz (192)
  • Anthony Davis, F/C, Pelicans (163)
  • Victor Oladipo, G, Pacers (136)
  • Jrue Holiday, G, Pelicans (105)
  • Robert Covington, F, Sixers (90)

Second Team

Rockets point guard Chris Paul (74 points) and Thunder forward Paul George (69) narrowly missed earning spots on the All-Defensive Second Team. A total of 29 other players received at least one vote, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.

You can find the full voting results right here.

Co-Owner Wyc Grousbeck Confident About Celtics’ Future

Celtics co-owner, managing partner, and CEO Wyc Grousbeck appeared today on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston before tonight’s Game 2 between the Celtics and Cavaliers to discuss a bevy of topics, as relayed by Adam Kaufman of WBZ-AM NewsRadio 1030 (click here for links).

Perhaps most interestingly, Grousbeck uncovered the fact that the Cavs were interested in obtaining/would have accepted Jayson Tatum instead of the Nets’ upcoming pick in the 2018 NBA Draft in last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics. Ultimately, the Celtics preferred to send the pick instead of their prized rookie, which sure appears to have been the right decision as we sit here today.

Faced with the upcoming free agency of Marcus Smart this summer and the potential free agency of Irving, Al Horford, and Terry Rozier next summer, Grousbeck was also asked to discuss the Celtics’ willingness to dip into the luxury tax if necessary. Per Kaufman, Grousbeck said the Celtics are prepared to “pay for performance” and “to do whatever it takes to win again.”

As for Irving’s knee injury that has kept him out of this year’s postseason, Grousbeck said that he has no long-term concerns about Irving’s knee, which parallels the report from about a month ago that Irving was already seen walking around without a noticeable limp just a little over a week after his surgery.

Given Irving’s positive prognosis, the relative youth of the Celtics’ roster and head coach, and the prowess the team has exhibited so far this postseason without Irving, Gordon Hayward, or Daniel Theis, it’s no surprise that Grousbeck feels very confident about his team’s future, even going as far as to say he’d be disappointed if the Celtics aren’t back in the same position they’re in now for the next five years.

Central Notes: Thompson, Pistons, Bulls Pick, Turner

Tristan Thompson will likely start at center for the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, according to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Coach Tyronn Lue told reporters that Thompson’s return to the lineup is being strongly considered, mainly due to his past success in defending Celtics big man Al Horford“It’s definitely something we have to weigh,” Lue said. “We weighed it before the series started, but we’d won seven out of eight and we weren’t going to adjust until someone beat us and we didn’t play well with that lineup that got us to this point.” Boston blew out Cleveland 108-83 in Game 1 on Sunday.

In other Central Division developments:

  • The Pistons could find themselves hiring a head coach before a new team president after getting involved late in the process, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. With the Pistons dealing with salary-cap issues, hiring a head coach that can maximize the potential of the current roster could loom as a higher priority, Ellis notes. Detroit and Stan Van Gundy, who held both positions, parted ways last week. Ex-Raptors coach Dwane Casey and former Hawks Mike Budenholzer are the top tier candidates, though both the Bucks and Raptors are reportedly interested in hiring Budenholzer. Ex-Piston Jerry Stackhouse, who coached the Raptors’ G League team last season, could also be a strong candidate, Ellis adds.
  • The Bulls need to hit a home run on their lottery pick this June in order to advance the rebuilding process, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times argues. Chicago is currently slotted at No. 6 unless it gets lucky in the draft lottery. “We’re going to find out [Tuesday] where we pick in the top 10,” VP of basketball operations John Paxson said. “That will obviously be a significant pick.” The Bulls also have the No. 22 pick, courtesy of the Nikola Mirotic trade with the Pelicans.
  • Pacers centers Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis could play together more often next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star reports. They bring varied skill sets to the floor, which could allow them to complement each other. Turner prefers to shoot jumpers and 3-pointers off of ball screens, while Sabonis rolls to the basket more often and shoots mid-range jumpers, Michael notes. “They’re different in how they play,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Part of it this season was allowing those guys to spend some time on the floor and possibly developing into a spread player at the 4 or the 5, depending on who was guarding who.”

Celtics Notes: Brown, Horford, Theis, Hayward

Jaylen Brown missed the second half of Saturday’s close-out game against the Bucks because of a Grade 1 right hamstring strain, but he’s optimistic he’ll be ready for the start of the next series, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN. Brown will have an MRI today to learn the full extent of the damage.

“Massage, rest, ice, all of the above,” he said in describing his treatment plan. “I hate taking pills. Like, I probably haven’t taken a pill in over 10 years. But they’ve got me taking anti-inflammatories and stuff like that. So just whatever it takes. Because I wouldn’t miss this next series for the world.”

Coach Brad Stevens said Brown probably could have returned to the game if needed, but he decided to be cautious, especially as the Celtics pulled away in the second half. Brown ran some test sprints and rode an exercise bike at courtside before taking a seat on the bench for the fourth quarter.

There’s more this morning from Boston:

  • With the two stars they added last summer both sidelined by injuries, the Celtics have turned to their top free agent addition from 2016, notes Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. Al Horford helped finish off Milwaukee with 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists in Game 7 and seems to have won over a Boston fan base that was skeptical after he was given a $113MM contract over four years. “He’s such a pro with how he approaches his job,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “And he knew what Boston was about. He knew the history. We get so much out of Al. He’s been such a stabilizing force for our team.”
  • Rookie center Daniel Theis reached a milestone in his recovery this weekend when he was cleared to walk without crutches for the first time since surgery, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Theis, who had his left knee lateral meniscus repaired in mid-March, probably won’t be cleared to start playing again until July, according to Stevens.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to do rehab in Indiana as he works his way back from a fractured ankle, Blakely tweets. Hayward was at Saturday’s game, but doesn’t expect to travel with the team in the next round.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Carroll, Russell, Horford, Noah

In an opinion piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer, David Murphy writes that the Sixers should play Markelle Fultz this season if and when he is healthy enough to return, even though there is an argument to be made for shutting Fultz down for the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign.

Murphy opines that the Sixers often struggle to find an offensive dimension that allows opportunities for guys to create their own shots, the need for which increases during playoff time as defenses more readily prepare for the opposition. As veteran Ersan Ilyasova put it, “In the playoffs, when you play a seven-game series, you have to execute and kind of always bring something unique, because everybody’s studied each other.”

The Sixers had scored just 251 points on isolation plays this season, the fewest in the NBA, and they also rate poorly in pick-and-roll efficiency, scoring on drives, and getting fouled on drives.

Enter Fultz, who could be the type of player to possibly add this needed dimension to the Sixers’ rotation. “He can make us better,” head coach Brett Brown said. “… Just what he does in open court, what he does with a live ball. I think he can be different from any player that we already have. What I see in practice sometimes, you understand completely why he was the first player chosen in the NBA draft.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his first season with the Nets, veteran forward DeMarre Carroll has done everything asked of him and more, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Carroll has started at power forward and even played center, all while keeping an upbeat attitude through the team’s rebuilding. “I’m feeling good,” said Carroll. “This is the best I’ve felt in my career. I feel like playing with these young guys is rejuvenating me and making me feel even younger. I’ve just got to keep trying to show these guys by example, rather than doing the talking.”
  • In another article for the New York Post, Lewis reports that Nets guard D’Angelo Russell is finally learning to work on his defense. Always a gifted scorer, Russell will continue to improve defensively as he gets older, bigger, and stronger, per head coach Kenny Atkinson.
  • Current Thunder head coach Billy Donovan still speaks highly of his former player at Florida – Celtics big man Al Horford, reports Taylor Snow of Celtics.com. “What I’ve always respected about (Al) is that it’s always about winning; he’ll do whatever he has to do to win and sacrifice whatever he has to to win.”
  • Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t have much news to report on the Joakim Noah front, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. Asked how the whole situation would resolve, Hornacek punted to general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Horford, Nets Picks

It’s been established that once regular season games resume, the Knicks plan on using recently acquired Emmanuel Mudiay, rookie Frank Ntilikina, and Trey Burke more extensively. Former NBA point and guard and TNT analyst Kenny Smith believes the Knicks can play both Ntilikina and Mudiay at the same time and let them compete for playing time, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“I think they feel Mudiay or Frank can move over and play together,” Smith said. “Who’s going to be the starter? You got to fight for that. At times, because of the size of both of them physically [both 6-foot-5], they can play together. When you have a guy like [Kristaps] Porzingis, who is a scorer, and they can facilitate for him to score the basketball, and [Enes] Kanter can score the basketball, those two [point guards] can actually play together.”

With the Knicks planning of using the aforementioned trio of guards, veteran Jarrett Jack is expected to lose playing time and may even be a buyout candidate. The organization had made it clear that Ntilikina is being groomed to be the future point guard, but the team is reluctant to make him the full-time starter. Mudiay, a former lottery pick, gives the Knicks both another option and competition.

Check out other Atlantic Division notes:

  • Al Horford made his third All-Star team, and first with the Celtics, in 2018 and he did so without the usual eye-popping statistics of an All-Star, Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes. Instead, Horford earned his spot by being a complete player who can make an impact on both sides of the ball.
  • Net Income of NetsDaily has a roundup of all the possible targets for the Nets in the upcoming draft.

Celtics Planned To Use Hayward As No. 2 Playmaker

The Celtics planned to run a Warriors-style offense this season prior to Gordon Hayward‘s serious leg injury on opening night, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated reports. The coaching staff wanted to utilize Hayward as a second ballhandler with Kyrie Irving running the attack. Many of Boston’s sets centered around Irving and Hayward playing a two-man game in the mold of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the Boston duo making plays off weakside screens and pindowns, Jenkins continues. Forward Al Horford would have also had a playmaking role, much like the Warriors’ Draymond Green, spacing the floor and distributing the ball to cutters. Without Hayward, Irving has been relied upon more as a scorer and Horford’s playmaking duties have been expanded, Jenkins adds.

Other nuggets from the SI piece on Hayward include:

  • GM Danny Ainge sees a healthy Hayward as the missing piece to a championship team. “What do we need? A versatile 6’8” defender who can switch one through four, handle the ball, create offense for others and make shots,” Ainge told Jenkins. “That’s what we need. That’s Gordon Hayward.”
  • It’s not out of the question Hayward could return this season if the Celtics make a deep playoff run. Hayward is trying to be realistic about his situation, so that he doesn’t set himself up for disappointment. “Wishing to be on the court, trying to be on the court, those are the thoughts that kept me up at night,” he told Jenkins.
  • Hayward’s predicament led to deeper bond among his teammates. That helped the Celtics get off to a strong start without him. “I think Gordon’s injury made us closer,” guard Terry Rozier told Jenkins.