Al Horford

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 “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.

Atlantic Rumors: Beasley, Hayward, Crabbe, Embiid

A pair of free-agent acquisitions, forward Michael Beasley and point guard Ramon Sessions, are among the players who have fallen out of the Knicks’ rotation, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Beasley didn’t play for the first time this season in the Knicks’ win over the Cavaliers on Sunday while Sessions, who started the first three games, didn’t play for the second straight game. Beasley signed a one-year, $2.1MM deal with New York and Sessions inked a one-year, $2.3MM contract this summer. Big man Willy Hernangomez has also fallen out of coach Jeff Hornacek’s current rotation and combo guard Ron Baker was inactive for the second straight game, Berman adds.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics are gradually adjusting to the loss of Gordon Hayward, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. Hayward’s horrific leg injury in the season opener left the team reeling but it has perked up over the past week, winning four straight heading into Monday’s game against the Spurs. “I think we’re getting used to that reality to what we have in front of us,” power forward Al Horford told Bulpett. “It’s a hard blow, but then as the days go on you kind of realize that this is our reality, this is what we have, and we need to make the most of it with what’s here right now.”
  • The Nets traded for shooting guard Allen Crabbe‘s huge contract but he hasn’t taken a lot of shots in the early going, Anthony Puccio of notes. Crabbe, who is the second year of a four-year, $74.8MM deal, was acquired from the Trail Blazers in July. Thus far, he’s averaging 10.6 PPG and taking an average of 9.4 shots per game. However, coach Kenny Atkinson told Puccio and other media members that he’s not worried about getting Crabbe more involved.  “We’re not a ‘let’s give it to Allen and clear out and let him go one-on-one,’” Atkinson said. “It’s a team concept. That means everything has to be in sync, we have to run to our spots, screen better, cut better.”
  • Joel Embiid, who signed a max extension with the Sixers earlier this month, wants to play in Philadelphia the remainder of this career, Molly Sullivan of tweets. “I want to be Kobe Bryant. I want to be Tim Duncan. I want to be Dirk Nowitzki,” Embiid told Sullivan.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Morris, Smart

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers left the Celtics several years ago as Boston entered a rebuilding period, so he’s as impressed as anyone with how quickly the C’s have managed to retool their roster and become a legit contender. As Stephen Hewitt of The Boston Herald details, Rivers still has a fondness for Boston, along with many members of the organization, and admires the work the front office has done in recent years.

“[I] love Danny (Ainge), love (owner Steve Pagliuca), that whole group, and I just want them to do well. I really do,” Rivers said. “I love what they’ve done. I think the turnaround in four years starting with hiring Brad (Stevens). … (Ainge) and (assistant general manager) Mike Zarren have done the best job I’ve seen in sports in a long, long time of rebuilding. Maybe ever.”

Rivers also had praise this week specifically for the acquisition of Kyrie Irving. Attending a fundraising event in Boston, Rivers joked that he’d rather have seen Irving land in Los Angeles, but expects the young point guard to thrive with the Celtics.

“This is a perfect situation for him,” Rivers said. “The Celtics gave up a lot to get him, but he’s 25 years old and that’s the other thing people forget about: He’s so young. He’s going to be a star here for a long time.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge answered questions this week about completing the Irving trade, why Boston was willing to give up so much to get him, and how Irving and Gordon Hayward will mesh on the court (video link).
  • Although Al Horford spent a good chunk of last season playing power forward, the Celtics sound as if they’re leaning toward having him start the 2017/18 campaign at center, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe (link via Jay King of That would allow Boston to start Horford alongside a power forward like Marcus Morris rather than a center like Aron Baynes.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of provides an update on the upcoming trial for Morris and his brother Markieff Morris, who face aggravated assault charges.
  • Marcus Smart, who is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, said this week that he’s lost 20 pounds since the end of last season and feels more “explosive” than he used to (Twitter link via Taylor C. Snow of Smart also spoke about the trade that sent Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland, suggesting that losing Thomas “still feels unreal” (video link via
  • Michael Lee of The Vertical spoke to some of Irving’s old coaches, who believe the star point guard is ready to show that he can be a franchise player.

Lowe’s Latest: George, Hayward, Ibaka, Gallinari

A proposed scenario that would see the Celtics sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George, and sign George to a contract extension isn’t realistic, writes Zach Lowe in his latest report for As Lowe points out, there would be no reason for George to re-up with Boston right away in that scenario unless he could renegotiate a maximum salary, and it would be extremely difficult for the C’s to accommodate such a deal without moving Al Horford.

Knowing that if they acquire George, he could be a rental, the Celtics have thus far been unwilling to include Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, or the Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder in any of their offers to Indiana, Lowe reports. Lowe’s best guess at Boston’s offer is a package that would include Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and one of the team’s other first-round picks. The C’s will be reluctant to go much higher than that, given their fear that George could leave in 2018 — Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times wrote on Thursday night that the Pacers forward is still telling friends he expects to be a Laker in 2018.

While George could just be a one-year rental, the Celtics have competition for him. According to Lowe, the Wizards would likely be willing to sign-and-trade Otto Porter and include a first-round pick. The Cavaliers would swap Kevin Love straight up, though that doesn’t interest Indiana much, per Lowe. If the Nuggets get involved again via three-way talks for George and Love, they could offer Gary Harris and a first-round pick, though NBA execs expect Harris to command upwards of $20MM annually on his next contract, which is due soon, says Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe with the free agent period right around the corner:

  • Lowe views Hayward as less than a 50-50 bet to stay with the Jazz, with both the Celtics and Heat as legitimate suitors. The ESPN scribe adds that he wouldn’t be surprised if a mystery fourth team ends up getting a meeting with Hayward.
  • The market for Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari is expected to be in about the $20MM-per-year range, sources tell Lowe.
  • The Sixers have told player agents that they plan on signing one-year contracts in free agency this summer to preserve future cap space. They may also use some of their current cap room to sign Robert Covington to a renegotiated extension, writes Lowe.
  • Lowe expects the Bucks to sign Tony Snell to a deal in the range of $10-12MM annually.
  • Despite drafting De’Aaron Fox, the Kings may still spend on a free agent point guard as a veteran mentor, particularly if they decide they want to chase a playoff spot right away, says Lowe.
  • The Grizzlies are “crossing their fingers” that the market for RFA power forward JaMychal Green isn’t as competitive as expected, according to Lowe.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Horford, Celtics, 76ers

Celtics GM Danny Ainge was impressed by Markelle Fultz after the point guard spent two days in Boston, reports Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Boston owns the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft and is strongly considering using the pick on Fultz.

“It went well. I had dinner with him last night. He had a physical yesterday and he had a workout this morning with Brad [Stevens]. Everything went well. He’s very talented,” Ainge told Himmelsbach by phone Tuesday.

But that is not all going on in the Atlantic division:

  • Fresh off the first season of his sizable contract with the CelticsAl Horford opens up about the high expectations and immense pressures he faces in an article from Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Horford explains how he copes: “My biggest thing, and I learned this at an early stage in my career, was to not read any of that information or see anything, good or bad…One day people love you, the next they hate you, it’s really up and down, and my focus was making sure the team kept getting better as a group, and not worry about anything outside. One thing that helped me was not paying attention to a lot of things.”
  • 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is not speeding up the team’s rebuild and instead appears to be patiently and strategically building a contender a la Sam Hinkie‘s “The Process,” writes Bob Cooney of
  • The 76ers will hold a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, reports Keith Pompey of (link via Twitter). The scheduled participants are Jordan Bell (Oregon), Thomas Bryant (Indiana), Tyler Dorsey (Oregon), Elie Okobo (Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez), L.J. Peak (Georgetown), and Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame).

Celtics Were Willing To Deal Thomas For Lottery Pick In ’16 Draft

The Celtics had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft and they used the selection to nab University of California’s Jaylen Brown. GM Danny Ainge wanted to acquire another lottery selection in addition to the team’s top-3 pick and he dangled everyone on the team in trade discussions, including Isaiah Thomas, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reports.

“Before the draft last year, Danny was trying to get two picks, not just Jaylen Brown,” MacMullan told Bob Ryan on his podcast (h/t Comcast Sportsnet). “He was on the phone with everybody from coast to coast, and he was offering everybody. That includes Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, and anything else they needed to get where he wanted to go. There were no untouchables on that team last year.”

MacMullan believes the only untouchable on Boston’s roster this summer will be Al Horford. The big man signed a four-year, $113MM deal with the team last offseason.

The Celtics won the lottery earlier this week and earned the top selection in the 2017 draft. In addition to the No. 1 overall selection, the franchise owns three second round picks. Only the Sixers have more selections in the upcoming draft.

If Boston wants to acquire another lottery pick in this year’s draft, I’d speculate that trading Thomas would fetch them a top-14 selection this time around. The point guard had an excellent season, scoring 28.9 points per game, a figure which only trailed Russell Westbrook and James Harden. He has just one season at a salary of approximately $6.26MM left on his deal after this year.

Celtics Notes: Horford, IT’s Value, IT’s Teeth

From the get-go, Al Horford was told to focus on helping the Celtics win rather than look to justify his max deal with big numbers, Ian Thomsen of writes.

The C’s opted to let the 30-year-old focus on getting comfortable with the franchise and his versatility and intangibles have helped fuel one of the best Celtics squads in years.

You don’t take a guy that’s averaging 14 points a game and expect him to average 25,” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said. “You don’t take a .270, 20-home-run guy and expect that he’s going to hit .330 and 40 home runs. We knew what Al was, and I think he’s even been better than what we thought.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Few considered that the Celtics were getting a star when they acquired Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline in 2014/15 but the point guard has established himself worthy of the praise. Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider recently took a skeptical look at the 28-year-old and was pleased with what he found.
  • An impressive postseason has shown that the Celtics can build around Thomas, says Chris Mannix of the Vertical. The journalist told CSN New England that, though much of the franchise’s direction heading forward could depend on their lottery pick, anchoring a lineup with Thomas is certainly possible.
  • After initially injuring several teeth in Game 1, Celtics guard Thomas re-injured his mouth in Game 3, the team reports in a press release. When the guard was struck in the head Thursday, the bridge that was installed to facilitate the recovery was re-broken. Another temporary bridge has been put in until the guard can get a permanent bridge at some point in the future.

Wizards Notes: Horford, Mahinmi, Smith, BIG3

Boston’s Al Horford could have been in the visiting locker room as the Eastern Conference semifinals get under way this afternoon, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. Before signing a four-year, $113MM deal with the Celtics last summer, Horford narrowed his list to three finalists that also included the Wizards and Rockets. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard flew to Atlanta to make a personalized pitch to Horford. Point guard John Wall also joined in the recruiting process.

“Me and him had a great conversation,” Wall recalled. “He told me it was down to [us], them and I think Houston. He made his final decision after that, you’ve got to move on. It would’ve been great to have him on our team, but he’s with the Celtics. They had a great season this year. He had a heck of a season and we’re competing against him now so all that texting, all we had is out the window.” 

There’s more today out of Washington:

  • The Wizards have announced that back-up center Ian Mahinmi won’t be available for today’s game (Twitter link). That isn’t suprising, Michael tweets, because Mahinmi hasn’t gone through a full practice since straining his left calf two weeks ago. He has ramped up his individual workouts over the past week, but isn’t ready for game action. Mahinmi played just 31 regular season games after signing a four-year, $64MM deal last offseason, as knee problems limited him to just five games before the All-Star break.
  • There’s better news about reserve big man Jason Smith, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Coach Scott Brooks said Smith will be ready for today’s game. He has been dealing with a left calf strain, but played 11 minutes in Friday’s closeout game against the Hawks.
  • Four former Wizards players are hoping to be part of the BIG3 league this summer, relays CSNMidAtlantic. Etan Thomas tweeted Saturday that he was at the league’s draft combine along with DeShawn Stevenson, Kwame Brown and Michael Ruffin. The new league, which features three-on-three competition among former NBA players, will hold its draft today in Las Vegas.