Blake Griffin

Celtics Notes: Griffin, Smart, Small Ball, Hauser

Blake Griffin, who officially signed with the Celtics on Monday, was pleasantly surprised by how the team greeted him upon his arrival, Darren Hartwell of Yahoo Sports relays.

“I’ve talked to pretty much everybody,” Griffin said. “I was talking to some guys (Sunday). … I’m actually very — not surprised, but the amount of maturity and welcomingness (that the Celtics’ players showed) … it’s a different atmosphere than I was sort of used to, in a good way. They were very welcoming: everybody, one through 15. Practice today was focused, very encouraging, helpful. I think you kind of take that for granted because it’s not always the case everywhere you go.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, hopes Boston is the only team he plays for, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “That’d be special, especially playing for a franchise that’s known for greatness,” Smart said. “So it’s something I’ve been thinking about and it’ll continue to be something I think about. It’s a great thing to think about. You see those banners when you walk into the Garden. You feel the history and the past. You feel the blood, sweat, and tears that the people in front of you left, and you want to be part of that.”
  • Though they looked a little sloppy at times, the Celtics had an eye-opening start to the preseason, routing the Hornets by 41 points. One of the interesting twists from interim coach Joe Mazzulla, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes, was a small-ball lineup he used in the second quarter with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the power positions and guards Malcolm Brogdon, Smart and Derrick White rounding out the unit.
  • An informal poll conducted by Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston during Media Day revealed Sam Hauser as the player who could have the most surprising impact this season. Hauser, who re-signed with the club on a three-year deal, appeared in 26 games off the bench last season. “Sam, in open gym, didn’t seem like he ever misses,” White said. “He didn’t miss much last year. And so just getting that year under his belt, being more assertive, and more sure of himself.”

Celtics Sign Blake Griffin

OCTOBER 3: The signing is official, the Celtics announced in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 30: The Celtics have agreed to a deal with free agent big man Blake Griffin, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Griffin will sign a fully guaranteed one-year contract with Boston.

The deal will be worth the veteran’s minimum, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe confirms (via Twitter). Griffin will earn $2,905,851, while the Celtics will take on a cap hit of $1,836,090.

Griffin, 33, spent last season in Brooklyn, averaging 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game for the Nets in 56 appearances (17.1 MPG). His shooting line was just .425/.262/.724.

The six-time All-Star’s role and production have declined significantly since his prime years with the Clippers and Pistons. Last season was the first time he came off the bench more often than he started, the first time he averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game, and the first time he averaged fewer than 11 points per game.

Still, the Celtics won’t be expecting Griffin to recapture his All-Star form. Boston simply needs more reliable depth in a frontcourt that has already been hit hard by injuries. Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss most or all of the 2022/23 season while recovering from a torn ACL, while Robert Williams will be out until at least November or December following knee surgery.

Multiple reports leading up to training camp indicated that the Celtics wanted to take a look at their in-house options before deciding whether to sign a veteran free agent. Several days into camp, it seems the team had seen enough to recognize that another veteran was necessary.

The Cetlics had no shortage of options in free agency — LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins, Tristan Thompson, and Dwight Howard are among the unsigned veterans still on the market. But the team attended Griffin’s recent workouts in Los Angeles and liked what it saw there, per Himmelsbach.

Boston has a full 20-man training camp roster, so the club will need to waive a player in order to make room for Griffin. I’d expect one of the six players on a non-guaranteed contract – Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman, Justin Jackson, Brodric Thomas, Luka Samanic, or Denzel Valentine – to be cut to open up a spot.

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Durant, Griffin, Horford, Tatum, Hartenstein

Cam Thomas‘ playing time dropped late last season and it doesn’t figure to spike upward with all of the Nets’ stars back in action this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes.

“We’ll see how it goes after training camp. But he clearly is on a veteran team with a lot of guys who can play, have had a lot of success,” coach Steve Nash said. “We know Cam’s talented, and just trying to continue to develop him and see if he can keep pushing and getting better at certain things that’ll help him get minutes. I said whether he plays or he doesn’t play, he has to stay positive, he has to keep the belief that this process is going to help him.”

Thomas appeared in 67 games last season, averaging 8.5 PPG in 17.6 MPG.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After all the drama he created during the offseason, Nets superstar Kevin Durant doesn’t want to continue answering questions about it, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell“Can we move on past that at some point?” Durant said. “I know it’s an interesting story. I know that it took up most of the offseason and drama sells, I get that, but I didn’t miss any games, I didn’t miss any practices, I’m still here. So hopefully we can move past that.”
  • Blake Griffin‘s versatility convinced the Celtics to take a flier on him, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. He was used more as a floor spacer and roller rather than the post-up scorer last season with the Nets, and he’s an adept ball handler. That makes him a more natural fit in Boston’s scheme. Griffin, who agreed to a one-year guaranteed deal, could see minutes at either power forward or center despite his defensive limitations.
  • With Ime Udoka out of the picture and young assistant Joe Mazzulla serving as the Celtics’ interim coach, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum need to take on bigger leadership roles, Steve Bulpett of opines. Horford can be more vocal and even demonstrative, while Tatum can set a better example by not complaining as much to the referees and by being quicker in terms of ball movement.
  • Center Isaiah Hartenstein will bring a new dimension to the Knicks’ second unit, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. Hartenstein fits the blueprint of what coach Tom Thibodeau demands on the defensive end due to his rim protection, Popper notes, and he’ll be tasked at times as the orchestrator of the second-unit offense. Hartenstein signed a two-year, $16.7MM contract as a free agent in July.

Atlantic Notes: Kornet, Griffin, Reed, Brunson, Nets

When word broke on Friday that the Celtics have agreed to sign Blake Griffin, we noted that injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams helped necessitate the move. However, those aren’t the only Boston frontcourt players dealing with health problems.

According to Jared Weiss and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), Celtics big man Luke Kornet sprained his ankle in practice this week and is expected to miss at least one or two weeks.

Kornet doesn’t have a fully guaranteed salary, but finished last season with the Celtics and has a partial guarantee on his new contract with the team, so he looks like a good bet to make the 15-man regular season roster, despite this setback.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Noting that the Celtics repeatedly targeted Blake Griffin on defense during their first-round victory over Brooklyn in the spring, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston weighs whether the former No. 1 overall pick still has enough left in the tank to be an asset to his new team.
  • While the Sixers still view Paul Reed primarily as a center, they’re taking a look at him as a power forward during training camp, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reed, who played the four at DePaul, is enjoying the opportunity. “I am happy about being able to switch on and guard smaller defenders,” Reed said. “And playing on the wing, being able to attack from the outside, I like doing that.”
  • New Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson is downplaying the pressure that comes along with his big new contract and the expectation that he’ll become New York’s long-awaited answer at point guard. Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News has the story and the quotes.
  • Nick Friedell of ESPN takes a look at the five biggest questions facing the Nets this season. Beyond the obvious ones relating to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons, Friedell examines how head coach Steve Nash might respond to a disappointing season and a tumultuous summer, and wonders if the team has enough depth at center.

Knicks Notes: Griffin, Aldridge, Carmelo, Howard, More

The Knicks still have two projected openings on their 15-man regular season roster, and several former All-Stars who have experience playing in New York are still available on the free agent market. Former Nets big men Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge and ex-Knicks star Carmelo Anthony are among the notable names who remain unsigned.

However, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the Knicks don’t currently view Griffin, Aldridge, or Anthony as a great fit for their roster. If the team makes a trade or two, it’s possible that stance could change, but for now it seems unlikely that any of those veterans will sign with New York, Berman writes.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • In a separate subscriber-only story in The New York Post, Berman cites a source who says free agent center Dwight Howard would love to play for the Knicks. New York’s depth chart at center already features Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims, so it’s unclear if the team would reciprocate that interest.
  • The Knicks’ Donovan Mitchell trade talks with Utah shone a light on a front office hierarchy that many league sources have described as confusing, according to Berman. President of basketball operations Leon Rose, advisor Gersson Rosas, head coach Tom Thibodeau, senior executive William Wesley, general manager Scott Perry, and strategist Brock Aller all have a say in basketball decisions, making it challenging for the front office to come to a consensus, Berman explains.
  • Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype explored several Knicks-related topics in the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast, including the Mitchell trade negotiations — Bondy claims the Knicks and Jazz were “at the two-yard line” before those discussions fell apart. Bondy and Scotto also discussed Cam Reddish‘s status, Thibodeau’s future, and which star the Knicks might target next, among other issues.

Celtics Notes: Anthony, Free Agents, Vonleh, Madar

The Celtics aren’t expected to sign free agent Carmelo Anthony as a replacement for the injured Danilo Gallinari, Brian Robb of MassLive writes in a mailbag column. The possibility of Anthony heading to Boston has been rumored over the past week, but multiple league sources tell Robb that Anthony isn’t considered a priority for the team.

The Celtics’ roster isn’t fully set heading into training camp, and a free agent or two could eventually be added. However, Robb hears that Boston wants to give players who are already under contract the first chance to replace Gallinari, including Sam Hauser and some big men who are hoping to make the team.

He suggests that Anthony may become an option later in the season if he’s still available and the Celtics need to add scoring off their bench. Robb also dismisses the prospect of veterans such as Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge being brought into camp.

Anthony remains unsigned roughly two weeks before camps open, even though he was fairly productive for the Lakers last season. The 38-year-old forward averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 69 games while shooting 44.1% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Noah Vonleh could be one of the options to replace Gallinari, but he’ll have to show that his defense has improved to earn a roster spot, Robb adds in the same piece. Vonleh agreed to a one-year training camp contract in August after playing overseas last season. Robb states that Vonleh is a below-average shot blocker and concerns about his defense are the main reason he played for seven teams in seven years.
  • Draft-and-stash player Yam Madar has been impressive for Israel during the EuroBasket tournament, Robb notes in a separate story. The 21-year-old point guard was a second-round pick in the 2020 draft and played for KK Partizan last season. He passed on Summer League to concentrate on his commitment to the Israeli team. Robb calls Madar’s future with the Celtics “murky” considering they drafted JD Davison this year.
  • As the rebuilding Jazz continue to shake up their roster, a deal with the Celtics could become an option, Robb adds in another piece. He examines the potential fit in Boston for several Utah players.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Embiid, Celtics, Griffin, Irving

In order to maximize their chances of winning a championship, the Sixers need to reinvent themselves around an injured Joel Embiid, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. Embiid is dealing with ligament damage to his thumb and will undergo surgery after the playoffs.

As we relayed, he has no intention of sitting out, but he clearly seemed bothered by the injury in Game 4. The MVP candidate still finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, but he was frequently grabbing at his hand during stoppages of play.

The Sixers have enough talent around Embiid to close out their series against the Raptors, but advancing beyond the second round without his usual level of production would be difficult. Embiid is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 50% shooting.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe takes a look at the Celtics’ hopes to bring the All-Star Game back to Boston. The Celtics are preparing a bid, Washburn notes, as Boston hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1964. The team would likely look to host in 2025 or 2026.
  • Nets veteran Blake Griffin provided a lift off the bench in Game 3 against Boston, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Griffin played for the first time since April 2, recording eight points in nearly eight minutes. He could see action again in Game 4 on Monday.
  • A trio of ESPN hosts — Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon — ripped Nets star Kyrie Irving and believe the team shouldn’t sign him to a long-term deal, as relayed by Adam Zagoria of Irving didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 and couldn’t play in home games until late March this season due to New York City’s vaccine requirement. That, combined with a midseason James Harden trade and key injuries, have harmed the Nets’ ability to build chemistry. Irving could decline a $36.5MM player option for next season and become a free agent this summer.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Nash, Durant, Griffin

Ben Simmons is targeting Monday’s Game 4 to make his debut with the Nets, but coach Steve Nash isn’t committing to anything, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Simmons went through a full workout today, which Nash said went well, but he cautioned that it’s difficult to start playing at this point of the season.

“I think it’s possible, but I’m not sure,” Nash told reporters before tonight’s game. “Like I said before, it’s not a normal return to play, having been off for nine months and being injured as long as he has been at the back of this, going on two months now – I think if I’m not mistaken – or more, so it’s not just, he got through three workouts and he’s ready to play. There’s a lot of bigger picture, bigger context — how he’s feeling, how able he would be to adapt to the environment. It’s a little different than playing a game that’s in the middle of the regular season so I think there’s a few factors at play to evaluate when he’s ready to play.”

Simmons was just cleared for contact five days ago as he continues to make progress from the back ailment that has kept him out of action since Brooklyn acquired him in February. He hasn’t played since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals more than 10 months ago.

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The Celtics‘ defensive approach has forced Kevin Durant into two of the worst playoff games of his career, observes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Amick talked to a pair of scouts who point out that Boston is being physical with Durant before he gets the ball and has guarded him with six different players so far. Durant is coming off a 4-for-17 performance in Game 2 and committed six turnovers in each of the first two games of the series.
  • The Nets are in danger of letting another of Durant’s prime years slip away, warns Ian O’Connor of The New York Post. O’Connor notes that it’s not a sure thing that Durant and Kyrie Irving will both be healthy at playoff time ever again, so the Nets should have a sense of urgency to get back in the series.
  • After missing the first two games of the series with a sprained left ankle, Blake Griffin was upgraded to available for Game 3, Lewis tweets. The veteran big man hasn’t played since April 2.

Atlantic Notes: J. Johnson, Schröder, Griffin, Toppin

Joe Johnson is excited to resume his NBA career in the same place it started 20 years ago, writes Patrick McAvoy of NESN. After three years out of the league, Johnson signed a 10-day contract with the Celtics, who selected him with the 10th pick in the 2001 draft. Johnson only played 48 games in Boston before being traded to the Suns, but he says it has a feeling of home.

“Man, I’m just going to enjoy the moment. It’s almost like a familiar place but I was only here for about six months my rookie year and I got traded,” Johnson said. “But you know it’s fun, there’s still a lot of familiar faces out there for the organization and I was surprised to see. It’s good to see some familiar faces and good to be in a familiar place.”

Johnson told reporters he wasn’t ready to play 5-on-5 basketball last year, but he spent the past 12 months working on conditioning, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Johnson was spending time with his daughter on Tuesday when his agent called and said the Celtics might be interested, adds Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter link). The agent called back 30 or 40 minutes later and told him to get on a plane.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Dennis Schröder will represent the first major trade deadline decision for new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, King states in a full story. Schröder has been productive in his first season with the team, averaging 16.8 points and 4.7 assists per game, but he’s on a one-year bargain contract and Boston will be limited to an offer beginning at about $7MM this summer. King notes that Schröder also takes playing time away from Payton Pritchard, who is among the team’s best shooters.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak that has strained the Nets‘ roster gave Blake Griffin a chance to revive his season, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Griffin was out of the rotation when the virus hit, but with only eight active players he logged a season-high 32 minutes Saturday night. He has played better since returning to the lineup five games ago and could see regular minutes once the roster is back to normal. “Blake’s played great,” coach Steve Nash said. “Like I’ve said to him, we know there’s always something around the corner, so although he was out of the rotation for a little while, we knew something would happen and he’d get his opportunity again, and he’s a pro. Worked his butt off, stayed in shape, found a rhythm. He’s playing good basketball.”
  • The Knicks, who have also been decimated by the virus, got good news today with Obi Toppin clearing health and safety protocols, the team announced (Twitter link).

Nets Notes: Bembry, Aldridge, Griffin, Harris

DeAndre’ Bembry‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Nets is only partially guaranteed for $750K, but based on his performance as of late, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the team will be comfortable fully guaranteeing that deal, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Bembry has taken on a larger role with Joe Harris and Bruce Brown out of action and has responded as well as Brooklyn could’ve hoped.

“He gives us some speed and athleticism; he gives us a defender out there who can guard No. 1 options on the other team, and he also is a cutter offensively for us. So he’s been great,” head coach Steve Nash said. “We’ve been working with him to really understand his role, and I think he’s been fantastic with his willingness to compete and to grow as a player. So, really proud of his effort and he’s getting better.”

Bembry scored 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds in 35 minutes during Saturday’s loss to Phoenix. Bembry won’t play that much – or that well – every night, but he looks like a good bet to continue getting regular minutes going forward, having impressed his star teammates with his recent play.

“He played incredible [on Saturday] — playing defense on the ball, cutting to the rim, making himself available, rebounding,” Kevin Durant said, per Lewis. “We’re going to need that from him. He was a spark for us and he was one of the bright spots out there. So hopefully he can continue to build on this and keep getting better.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at how LaMarcus Aldridge went from retiring in the spring to becoming a crucial part of the Nets’ lineup in the fall. Aldridge, who inked a minimum-salary contract with the club in the offseason, has been one of this season’s best bargains so far.
  • Having been displaced by Aldridge in the starting lineup, Blake Griffin has been out of Brooklyn’s rotation entirely over the last couple games, which he admits he didn’t see coming, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Griffin said he talked to former teammate DeAndre Jordan, who was removed from the rotation last season, about how to handle the demotion. “He did a really great job with it,” Griffin said. “I told him that. That is how I am going to try to do it as well.”
  • Joe Harris‘ contract includes a $500K bonus that he can earn if the Nets win the championship, but he only qualifies for it if he plays at least 65 regular season games, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Harris’ absence due to ankle surgery appears likely to take that bonus off the table for this season, even if Brooklyn makes a title run.