Al Horford

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 NetsDaily.com 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 NBCSPhilly.com 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 MassLive.com). 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 CSNNE.com 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 Celtics.com). Smart also spoke about the trade that sent Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland, suggesting that losing Thomas “still feels unreal” (video link via CSNNE.com).
  • 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 ESPN.com. 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 Philly.com.
  • The 76ers will hold a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, reports Keith Pompey of Philly.com (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 NBA.com 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.

Atlantic Notes: Raps, Celtics, Rodriguez, Covington

Earlier today, we passed along Knicks president Phil Jackson‘s comments to reporters, including his assertion that Carmelo Anthony might be “better off somewhere else.” We also rounded up a few end-of-season items on the Sixers. We’ve still got a handful of Atlantic notes to relay, so let’s dive right in…

  • With the Raptors preparing to face the Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes about how Toronto president Masai Ujiri “desperately” tried to trade into the 2013 NBA draft to nab Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, those efforts came up short, as Milwaukee selected Antetokounmpo with the No. 15 pick.
  • Appearing this week on WEEI, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck was asked about Al Horford‘s impact in Boston this season and said he’d make the Horford signing “in one second” if he had the chance to do it over again. John Tomase of WEEI.com has the quotes and the details.
  • Veteran point guard Sergio Rodriguez is facing free agency and may not be back with the Sixers next season, but he said on Thursday that he’d like to “try to stay in the NBA and play a few more years here,” tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com. Rodriguez spent the previous six seasons with Real Madrid before signing with Philadelphia last summer.
  • Sixers forward Robert Covington is undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Covington’s recovery isn’t expected to take more than four to six weeks, so he should be good to go well before training camp.

Front Office Shakeups Ahead?

Disappointing seasons could lead to front office changes for at least five teams this summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

The most obvious team headed for a shakeup is Sacramento, which reportedly wants to position someone above GM Vlade Divac and may have interest in former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, despite an official statement denying it. There are also ongoing rumors of a rift between Vivek Ranadive and the minority ownership, which has grown frustrated with the way the team has been managed.

Kyler notes that Ken Catanella was hired as an assistant GM last summer, but wasn’t given the power that many expected him to have.

Change may also be coming to these organizations:

  • Orlando — The Magic seem ready to replace GM Rob Hennigan, with Pistons executive and former Orlando player Pat Garrity as the leading candidate to be offered the job. The Magic had hoped to be playoff contenders after signing Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka, but the new combination never worked out. Orlando is 14th in the East at 27-47, and Ibaka was shipped to Toronto last month. Kyler cites league sources who say several of the Magic’s lower level executives are expecting changes and have started contacting other organizations.
  • New Orleans — A recent report said coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps could both be fired without significant progress by the end of the season. Demps may have bought himself more timee with the DeMarcus Cousins trade, but the Pelicans have reached the playoffs just twice during his seven years at the helm. Louisiana native Joe Dumars is close to ownership and is reportedly being considered as a replacement.
  • Phoenix — The Suns will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, and many believe that owner Robert Sarver wants to turn things around quickly. Ryan McDonough has amassed an impressive group of young talent in his four years as GM, but that may not be enough to convince Sarver to keep him.
  • Atlanta — It’s unlikely that coach/executive Mike Budenholzer or GM Wes Wilcox gets replaced, but several staff additions are expected. The Hawks have been shaken by the loss of free agent Al Horford last season and the possible exit of Paul Millsap this summer, along with a late-season losing streak that may knock them out of the playoffs. More voices may be brought on to help Budenholzer and Wilcox with the decision-making process.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Rose, Horford

The foundation of the Sixers franchise is cracked, writes Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The scribe turns a spotlight on the organization for its handling of injuries to star players and even the management of its payroll this year and last.

Ambiguity and a lack of transparency with regard to the recovery times of players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons call into question whether the club has a management problem or just a communication problem. Regardless, the “fans and players need this organization to be run better,” he writes. Recently the Sixers revealed that both Embiid and Simmons will miss the remainder of the 2016/17 campaign after several weeks of misplaced optimism and muted details about the severity of their injuries.

Finally, Cooney acknowledges that for the second time in two years the franchise has taken on and eaten the lofty contracts of opposing teams’ veterans in bids to push their payroll closer to the salary floor. A team that doesn’t reach the salary floor is obligated to pay the difference out to the players on their roster, but by taking on Andrew Bogut‘s deal, the club absolves itself of the responsibility. The part of Bogut’s $11MM contract that the Sixers inherited in the Nerlens Noel trade, of course, is prorated relative to how much of the 2016/17 season he spent with each organization.

“Don’t think that hasn’t soured some, if not most,” of the Sixers’ players, Cooney cautions.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • A less-than-impressive showing on defense in Wednesday night’s Sixers loss has Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford wondering if “Jahlil Okafor‘s career in Philadelphia may have ended with that one play.”
  • Injured big man Joel Embiid is taking his setback in stride. “Be back soon,” the Sixers rookie tweeted Thursday. “The process has to be postponed.”
  • While the Knicks as an organization moved to embrace the triangle offense, point guard Derrick Rose isn’t so enthusiastic. “S—, do I have a choice? Do I have a choice?” he joked with Ian Begley of ESPN and reporters on Thursday.
  • While it wasn’t long ago that it seemed Derrick Rose was on his way out of New York, he’ll remain with the Knicks for the rest of the year and, per Laura Albanese of Newsday, is working on adding a three-point shot.
  • The Raptors will need to play with more energy and passion if they’re to stop their slide down the Eastern Conference standings, writes Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun. Modified minute distributions for the second unit may be in the cards as well.
  • The impact of Al Horford on the Celtics isn’t always measured by traditional statistics, writes A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England. “He makes plays, high basketball IQ, he can score, he can pass, he can rebound and the way he played (against Cleveland) we need him to play like that for us to win. He does a lot for us that doesn’t even go on the stat sheet though,” says point guard Isaiah Thomas.
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