Al Horford

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Grousbeck, Baynes, Horford

Former Celtic Paul Pierce believes Jayson Tatum would reach his All-Star potential if he drove to the basket more often, as he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“For a guy with his athleticism, his skill set and his ball-handling, his height, he should be a guy that gets to the line at least six times a night and makes five out of six,” Pierce said. “That’ll take him from a 16-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and he’ll be in the conversation for All-Star every year on a winning team.”

Pierce also believes Tatum won’t fully blossom until he’s relied upon as a primary scorer.

“Look at James Harden,” he said. “We didn’t know James Harden was going to be this until he went to Houston. He was the sixth man on OKC. Now he’s a perennial MVP and arguably the best player in the league.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Kyrie Irving’s decision in free agency could be decided by how the postseason plays out, Bulpett speculates in the same article. While events during the season have seemingly tilted the odds in favor of Irving signing elsewhere, that could change if the team makes a deep run, Bulpett adds.
  • Danny Ainge attributed a seemingly critical comment by Irving against the coaching staff as frustration after a loss. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scored 36 points against Boston in a recent loss and Irving said they should have trapped Walker more often. Ainge’s response came on a radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and was relayed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston“I did hear (Irving’s comments). It’s not that uncommon,” the GM said. “Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, ‘We should have done something different with Kemba.'”
  • Owner Wyc Grousbeck believes the team can flip the switch during the postseason, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Grousbeck admits the team has underachieved but still believes better days are ahead. “We have not played at an elite level this year,” Grousbeck said. “We have to admit that at the moment. We’re in fifth place in the East. It’d be great to take that step now, or we’ll try to take it next year if we have to. But what I’m seeing, with the playoffs around the corner, I’m going to go into the playoffs with good energy and optimism and seeing what happens.”
  • Pairing Al Horford and Aron Baynes can give the Celtics more toughness inside but it would only work against certain lineups, as coach Brad Stevens explains to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg“With their size and length, I think we have a different impact at the rim. But when you’re playing a team that’s super small and spread out, that’s tough to guard when you have a more traditional lineup.”

Injury Notes: Embiid, Richardson, McCaw

Joel Embiid will miss the next three games for the Sixers, starting with tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The move to leave Embiid home during the three-game road trip is part of pre-determined maintenance.

Embiid missed time following the All-Star break with knee soreness and other players, such as Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons, have also missed time because of injury and rest concerns. As a result, the team’s starting five has only played in 10 games together this season, as I detailed last week.

Here’s more injury notes from around the league:

  • Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said there is no timetable for Josh Richardson (left heel) to return to action, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald relays on Twitter. Spoelstra added that he doesn’t believe Richardson is done for the season.
  • Patrick McCaw will be in a splint for approximately three weeks, according to a Raptors press release. He will be re-evaluated at that time.
  • Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will both miss tonight’s contest against the Nets, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com passes along. Irving’s nursing a sore back while Horford has a sore left knee. Neither player is expected to miss an extended period of time for the Celtics.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Hayward, Rozier

No matter how it affects the Celtics‘ playoff seeding, Kyrie Irving plans to take at least a game or two off before the regular season ends, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Irving said at today’s shootaround that he is focused on being fully healthy for the postseason, which begins three weeks from Saturday.

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” he told reporters. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Coach Brad Stevens has talked about resting Al Horford, who has pain in his left knee, and agrees that health heading into the postseason should be the team’s priority.

“I think this is the bottom line: If we choose to rest Al in a game, or Kyrie in a game, then we have other guys who should be able to step up and play well, and they’re approaching that as a great opportunity for those other guys, too,” Stevens said.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Gordon Hayward is making progress in the concussion protocol and could be ready to play by this weekend, Murphy adds in the same piece. Hayward, who was injured Saturday, worked on the treadmill yesterday and will be evaluated tomorrow. “Every indication is that he felt OK today,” Stevens said. “But he will go to the doctor in Boston (Thursday). If he’s cleared to go, he’ll go through the next steps and keep on going.”
  • During a recent radio interview, Terry Rozier discussed the problem of having too many players who feel like they can take over games, relays John Karalis of MassLive. Rozier admits that getting players to accept their roles has been an ongoing problem. “When you’re playing on a team you’re dealing with different types of personalities,” he said, “but now you’re dealing with so many different guys that feel like they the man, and now it’s like, how do you handle that?”
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is looking on the bright side of a season that most observers consider disappointing, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Heavy favorites to win the East before the season began, the Celtics entered tonight in fifth place at 43-28. “There’s been a few games here and there when we’ve played really well,” Ainge said. “It’s like you take one step forward and take a step backward, and then you take two steps forward and take another step back. But I feel like there’s a lot of good things I see on our team.”

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Celtics, Horford, Knicks

Fred VanVleet returned to the Raptors‘ lineup at the right time, suiting up for the team on Sunday for the first time since injuring his thumb before the All-Star break. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca details, Toronto threw VanVleet into the deep end in his return, playing him for 31 minutes in a tightly-contested loss to Detroit, and the club was at its best when he was on the floor.

VanVleet won’t be relied upon to play quite as significant a role once Kyle Lowry is ready to return from his ankle injury, but Jeremy Lin‘s struggles since joining the Raptors last month have highlighted VanVleet’s importance, Grange notes.

In 15 games since he arrived, the Raptors have a -5.9 net rating when Lin plays and a +12.9 rating when he sits. With VanVleet back in the rotation and Lowry nearing a return, Lin’s role is in danger of being cut back significantly as the postseason approaches.

Here’ more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although he only played for the Celtics for three seasons, it felt like 15 based on the love he was shown by fans in Boston, Isaiah Thomas tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Suggesting that he’ll always consider Boston home, the veteran guard said he wouldn’t close the door on returning to the Celtics at some point. “You never know,” Thomas said. “You can’t predict the future. My options are always open for anybody. I’m a Denver Nugget now, but I’m a free agent at the end of the season, and you never know what can happen. Who knows?”
  • Over the weekend, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters, including Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link), that the club plans to sit Al Horford for three or four games down the stretch. Horford’s impact has been a little inconsistent this year, which is due in part to nagging injuries, so the C’s want to make sure he’s ready for the postseason.
  • Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been frequently linked to the Knicks this season, while they’ve had contentious exchanges with the media nearly just as frequently. In a column for Newsday, Steve Popper wonders how Durant, Irving, or any other star who signs with the Knicks this summer would handle the pressure and expectations that would face them in New York.

Celtics Notes: Rozier, Thomas, Horford, T. Robinson

Celtics guard Terry Rozier has formed a strong bond with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge even though he has been on the trading block this year, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Rozier shined while Kyrie Irving was sidelined with an injury during last year’s playoffs, but has struggled to fit into a backup role this season. With restricted free agency looming this summer, Rozier seemed like a natural candidate for a deal.

“I know he had some thoughts about trading me this year,” Rozier said. “I respected the business side of it. I don’t ever try to get too much in other people’s jobs. I try to do my job, which is on the court. Like I said, I know he had thoughts, but it didn’t happen.”

Ainge has been a believer in Rozier since drafting him with the 16th pick in 2015 when he was projected as a late first-rounder at best. He resisted trading Rozier because of his potential value in the playoffs, but there’s still no guarantee that the fourth-year guard will remain in Boston beyond this season.

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Isaiah Thomas can expect a warm reception when he returns to Boston tomorrow night, both from fans and former teammates, relays Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports. Thomas, who has fallen out of the Nuggets’ rotation, may finally get a tribute video. He was injured in his only other trip to the city since being traded and requested that the Celtics not produce a video then. “One of the reasons I came here (to Boston) was to play with him, and one of the things I always admire about Isaiah is his heart,” Al Horford said. “Just leaving it all out there. It didn’t matter if he was hurt or there was something wrong. He’s a guy that loves to compete, that plays hard, that plays to win, and it was just a lot of fun to play with him.”
  • An injury scare for Horford during yesterday’s win over the Hawks showed why the Celtics want to give him some rest before the playoffs, notes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Horford left the game after banging knees with an Atlanta player in the third quarter. He was able to return, but Boston plans to give him three or four games off to ensure his health for the postseason.
  • The Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine has officially added former NBA forward Thomas Robinson, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who suggests that Robinson might be considered for Boston’s open roster spot. The Red Claws play four more games before their season ends Saturday.

Al Horford Wants To Play Until He’s 40

Celtics big man Al Horford wants to play until he’s 40, Brian Robb of the Boston Sports Journal reports.

That’s quite a lofty goal for a 12-year veteran big man who has already logged 775 regular-season and 111 postseason games in his career. Horford turns 33 in June.

“For me, as long as I’m healthy and feel good, I would like to play until I’m 40,” Horford told Robb. “Why not? As long as I’m healthy and feel good. I don’t want to be out there struggling or hurt or things like that. I really take the time to work on my body and I enjoy the game, so I wouldn’t see why I wouldn’t keep playing on it. I’m not going to put a limit on it. I’m just going to keep playing as long as I feel good.”

Horford missed 10 games this season, mainly due to a knee injury, but has been durable for much of his career. He played just 29 games during the 2012/13 season after suffering a torn pectoral but appeared in 68 or more regular-season games in each the next four years.

“I feel good. It’s something that I don’t have any complaints about,” Horford said. “I dealt with that (knee issue) in December, but I think it was probably like mid-January, that’s when I felt back like myself. Hopefully, I won’t have any issues with it.”

There are only 27 players in NBA history that have played at age 40, Robb notes, including two active ones (Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki).

Horford has one more year remaining on his contract with Boston, if he chooses to opt in to his $30.1MM salary for next season. He is averaging 13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.4 BPG in 28.7 MPG this season.

Latest On Anthony Davis

Some members of the Pelicans organization want to get the Anthony Davis trade done today to eliminate the public relations distraction, but those feelings don’t go all the way to the top, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). The NFL’s Saints remain the priority for owner Gayle Benson and VP Mickey Loomis, who aren’t bothered by the Davis situation.

There’s more news about the top name on the trade market:

  • The Lakers’ last offer to the Pelicans involved Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart and a pair of first-round picks, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. He suggests the Celtics are prepared to offer Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Al Horford (assuming he opts in) and possibly three first-round picks this summer.
  • Davis will pressure the Pelicans to start playing him if he’s not dealt before the deadline, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). “Every game,” a source said. Davis has been sidelined with a fractured left index finger, but recently received medical clearance.
  • Gambadoro expects Davis to be in the lineup for tomorrow’s game against Minnesota (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Smart, Baynes, Irving

As the 2019 trade deadline approaches, more and more reports are surfacing regarding which teams are looking to make additions to their roster ahead of this season’s stretch run. Ken Berger of Bleacher Report recently wrote about the Bradley Beal sweepstakes, in which it is revealed that the Raptors may be looking to add an elite shooting guard this season.

The Raptors have been one of the best teams – if not the best team – in the league so far this season and certainly have the ingredients on their roster for a run to the NBA Finals. However, the team’s shooting has slipped in recent weeks as they are down to 34.3% shooting on 3-pointers, good for 24th in the league (they rank 11th in attempts per game).

While it may be hard for the Raptors to enter the Beal sweepstakes (especially if the Wizards aren’t focused on moving him), it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Toronto does make a move to add another shooter to its rotation for the remainder of the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Celtics Notes: Irving, Hunter, Horford, Draft Picks

The Celtics wrapped up a dominant home stand on Wednesday night with a 135-108 win over Indiana, capping off a four-game stretch in which they outscored their opponents by over 20 points per game. Boston has now won seven of nine games since a home loss to Milwaukee on December 21, and Kyrie Irving points to the team meeting that took place after that game a turning point for the C’s, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com details.

“At that point, playing against Milwaukee, we weren’t at rock bottom, but we needed to address some s— in this locker room,” Irving said. “It’s just good to get stuff out in the air. As grown men and guys that have expectations for themselves, it was good to hear guys talk about what they wanted for themselves and what they wanted for this team.”

It has been a somewhat inconsistent first half for the Celtics, who were viewed as the Eastern Conference frontrunners entering the season. The club played just .500 ball in its first 20 games and had a couple more bad losses after that. But as the C’s reach the midpoint of their schedule, they’re back on pace for 50+ wins, and Irving believes they’re starting to hit their stride.

“Everything we talked about at the beginning of the season, I feel like it’s translating now as we continue to get to know one another,” he said. “Meat of the season right now and you can tell that our team is just feeling really good being around each other. And it’s totally different in terms of how we feel out there. It’s just really positive. And when I don’t have to go out there and score 30 it’s cool with me. I probably won’t have to score 30 for us until we play one of the best teams in the league — or, if any — until the playoffs. So I’m happy about that.”

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • Former first-round pick R.J. Hunter, who agreed to a two-way contract with the Celtics, called it a “crazy feeling” to return to his original team two and a half years after being waived, as Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe tweets. “R.J. wants to show the people of Boston they made the right decision when the Celtics drafted him,” agent Mark Bartelstein said, per Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link). “He turned down all kinds of offers from overseas to make his way back to the NBA. I have so much respect for him.”
  • Al Horford, who missed time with a knee injury in December, figures to remain on a minutes restriction for the foreseeable future, writes Taylor Snow of Celtics.com. After initially looking to limit him to around 25 minutes per game, the Celtics are now willing to go up to 27-28 MPG for Horford, Snow notes.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton explores how valuable the Celtics’ four 2019 first-round picks might end up being. Pelton believes that if Boston makes a play for Anthony Davis during the coming offseason, the team’s young players will likely be more valuable trade chips than those draft picks.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Horford, Sixers, Irving

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina is set to return to the rotation after sitting out of the team’s game on Christmas, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. The Knicks will play the Bucks on Thursday night, the second matchup between the teams this week.

“He’s a pro, man,” coach David Fizdale said of Ntilikina. “He says, ‘Coach, don’t you worry about that.’ That’s how he talks. He says, ‘I don’t want you to worry about that. I know you are going to get me back in there at some point and I won’t let you down.’

“For a 20-year-old kid to think that way and talk that way even though I know it hurt him, and I know it was hard on him, and I didn’t want to do that to him — he just handled it great. I want him to have a shot back at these guys.”

Ntilikina’s sudden benching likely harmed his confidence, but the 20-year-old has stayed ready for a second opportunity. His mother traveled to New York for the Christmas Day game, according to Berman, making the sudden DNP sting even more for the second-year player.

Ntilikina has averaged 6.3 points per contest in 31 games this season, shooting 34% from the field and 29% from 3-point range. The Knicks drafted him with the No. 8 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Al Horford‘s return brought a calming effect to the Celtics this week, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports writes. Horford returned to Boston’s lineup on Christmas against the 76ers, producing nine rebounds, six assists and solid all-around leadership. “[Horford] just brings a calming presence,” said teammate Kyrie Irving. “[There’s] nothing like having a plus-12[-year] vet out there that knows how to play basketball. He makes the game a lot easier with screening, rebounding, defense, all the intangibles that just demand that effort. And he’s just always locked in, in the game plan.”
  • Despite Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid not being a flawless fit together, the duo still has several years to work out the kinks and improve as members of the Sixers, David Murphy of Philly.com opines. Philadelphia currently owns a 22-13 record behind the production of Simmons, Embiid and Jimmy Butler, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Despite the Celtics‘ recent success, All-Star Kyrie Irving will need more help if the team hopes to make a late postseason run, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. The Celtics were expected to be at the top of their conference entering 2019, but the team holds just a 20-13 record and the fifth seed 33 games into the season. Boston sports a talented mix of players around Irving that includes Horford, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward.