Al Horford

Al Horford To Miss ‘At Least A Few Games’

Celtics big man Al Horford is expected to miss “at least a few games,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters today (Twitter link). According to the team, Horford – who has already missed Boston’s last two contests – has been diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome, colloquially known as runner’s knee.

It’s the latest in a line of injuries or illnesses for the banged-up Celtics, who were also missing Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes, and Guerschon Yabusele on Monday.

If Boston has four players who all miss three or more games and are expected to remain sidelined for the foreseeable future, the club could apply for a hardship exception to sign an extra player, but that shouldn’t be necessary. Irving, Hayward, and Baynes all appear to be day-to-day, so Horford and Yabusele are the only C’s expected to remain on the shelf for the next several games.

The Celtics have looked just fine without Horford so far, beating the Bulls by 56 points on Saturday and the Pelicans by 13 on Monday. Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, and Semi Ojeleye figure to continue earning extra minutes up front until Baynes and Horford are ready to return. The Celtics also have an open two-way contract slot available if they want to add any more frontcourt reinforcements.

Atlantic Notes: Hezonja, Miles, Dudley

The Knicks have given offseason addition Mario Hezonja the green light to shoot more, an opportunity the 2015 lottery pick didn’t exactly have throughout three seasons in Orlando.

According to Greg Joyce of the New York Post, head coach David Fizdale plans to “hammer” the swingman about shooting more threes and wishes that he’d be greedier with the ball.

Hezonja understands that he’ll be shouldering some of the offensive load, especially as a potential starter, but wants to make a point of serving as a playmaker for his teammates.

I’m new here, so I want to get used to other guys, which I’m pretty used to right now,” Hezonja said. “I just want to find them more, get them more involved, get them more shots, get them to feel more comfortable in the game. I know my stuff is going to come regardless.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors have plenty of depth on the wing which could limit the opportunities that C.J. Miles gets to bounce back after a disappointing 2017/18 season. Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes about Miles’ defensive struggles last season and the competition he’ll be up against to get significant minutes this season.
  • The Nets will pay Jared Dudley $9.5MM this season but the 33-year-old could be more than just an expiring contract. Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes about Dudley’s defensive IQ and ability to provide leadership in the locker room as major assets. The slimmed down veteran could also earn minutes as the lone stretch four on the roster.
  • Well aware of the opportunity that the Celtics have to win the Eastern Conference and compete for a title, potential 2019 free agent Al Horford is focused exclusively on playing basketball this season. “We have such a big opportunity that we can’t allow ourselves to look ahead or look at any of that,” Horford told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “I’m really locked in with this season.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Butler, Bird

Kyrie Irving is energized as the Celtics prepare for training camp and the preseason. After dealing with a nagging knee injury that ultimately cost him the final month of last season and the playoffs, Irving is ready to prove himself, Jackie MacMullan of ESPN writes.

“I’m moving completely differently,” Irving said. “I’ve worked on my strength and have a heightened awareness of what my body needs on a day-to-day basis. I spent all summer trying get my left leg to catch up with my right. And it’s there.”

Not only will the upcoming season be important for the Celtics — who chase another deep postseason run — it will be key for Irving as enters free agency next summer. Irving will be one of the most sought-after free agents available and a strong, healthy 2018/19 in Beantown will mean a heftier contract. However, interested teams should take note of how Irving worded his answer to why he hasn’t committed long-term to Boston.

“Who wouldn’t be a part of this?” Irving said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Gordon Hayward? People keep saying, ‘Why won’t he commit to Boston?’ Well, there are financial implications involved.”

Check out more Celtics note below:

  • The Knicks have long been rumored as a potential destination for Irving next summer as the team will have the cap space to land at least one top free agent — possibly two. However, Irving has not spoken to Jimmy Butler — another potential Knicks target next summer — since 2016, which decreases the chances of New York landing both, SNY’s Adam Zagoria writes.
  • Al Horford is coming off a productive season with the Celtics, which leads to the question of what the veteran center can contribute in his third year with the team. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston examines how Horford will impact Boston on the court this season.
  • Prior to his arrest for alleged domestic assault and kidnapping of his girlfriend, Celtics’ guard Jabari Bird was being treated for ’emotional issues,’ per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Sources tell Bulpett that this was an “out of character” occurrence for Bird, who had been experiencing “panic attacks” in the weeks before the incident. The Celtics were aware that Bird was undergoing treatment.

Lowe’s Latest: Kawhi, Sixers, Celtics, Scott, More

The Sixers have not made Markelle Fultz available in Kawhi Leonard trade talks with the Spurs, and the Celtics haven’t been willing to include Jaylen Brown in their discussions with San Antonio, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms in his latest article.

We’ve heard variations on Lowe’s report for the last week or two, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link) recently suggesting that the Sixers don’t want to discuss Fultz, Joel Embiid, or Ben Simmons in Leonard talks, and adding that the Celtics’ top five players have been “off-limits” in negotiations with the Spurs — presumably, Woj was referring to Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford.

Lowe’s full piece on the Leonard situation features several more tidbits of note, including some items only tangentially related to a possible Leonard trade. Let’s round up the highlights…

  • LeBron James isn’t pressuring the Lakers to add a second star for now, according to Lowe, who says that James “has faith in the combined powers of his supernova talent and the Lakers brand.” LeBron also recognizes that Brandon Ingram has considerable upside and is aware that many star free agents could be on the market in 2019, Lowe notes.
  • Lowe classifies rumors that Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving want to play together as “credible chatter.” However, the Celtics remain confident that they’ll be able to re-sign Irving next year, per Lowe.
  • Details of Mike Scott‘s contract agreement with the Clippers have yet to surface, but Lowe indicates the deal will use part of the team’s mid-level exception rather than being a minimum-salary signing.
  • Lowe’s piece is worth checking out in full, particularly for a section in which he brainstorms hypothetical wild-card suitors for Leonard, exploring whether the Raptors, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Timberwolves, Thunder, Heat, Rockets, Bucks, Nuggets, Warriors, Pistons, or Kings might be fits — many are quick “no”s, but some generate some intriguing hypothetical deals.

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.”