Blake Griffin

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Griffin, Brown, Mazzulla

Early-season MVP talk hasn’t been a distraction, Celtics star Jayson Tatum told reporters, including Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic, in a media session before tonight’s game in Phoenix. Boston has the best record in the league at 20-5 and Tatum ranks fourth in scoring at 30.8 PPG, so he’s a natural candidate for the award but he’s not focused on it.

“It’s something that I’m aware of, but I think a lot of it has to do with our team’s success,” Tatum said. “I think I keep playing the way I am and everybody individually, and we keep complementing each other the way we are, and continue to win, then everybody’s going to get individually what they deserve. So I guess the main focus is to keep trying to be one of the best teams and keep trying to win and just get closer to our ultimate goal of getting back to the finals.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Blake Griffin isn’t playing regularly, but he has been effective whenever Boston has needed him, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. With Robert Williams injured, Griffin has been sharing center duties with Luke Kornet as backups to Al Horford. Griffin is only averaging 14.7 minutes in nine games, but his teammates rave about what he provides whenever he’s on the court. “To be able to see him come out and give the energy he’s been giving us, that’s all you can ask for,” Marcus Smart said. “It’s no wonder why everyone loves Blake. It’s no wonder why he’s on this team and he’s still here in this league. He understands what it takes to be a vet.”
  • Jaylen Brown, who was left out of the All-Star Game last season, questioned the league’s system for choosing reserves in an interview with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports. “I think it should be more exclusive in regards to the decision-making that goes into the process because, to be honest, we have no idea how we make it,” Brown said. “We make it and then they say that there’s this large process, but the (players) union isn’t involved at all. So, as players and representatives of the organizations, I think that definitely we should have some say so.”
  • Joe Mazzulla talked to Marc J. Spears of Andscape about the challenges of being thrown unexpectedly into a head coaching role with one of the league’s best teams, offering an interesting perspective when asked about the possibility of having his interim label removed. “Whether you’re the interim or not, you’re always the interim,” Mazzulla said. “It goes back to what is the truth. The truth of the matter is it’s just a name. And whether I have a five-year deal or a one-year deal, I can be gone at any time.”

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Irving, Griffin, Warren

Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving were often at odds when they were teammates with the Celtics, but their relationship has improved since Irving left for the Nets, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Brown was among Irving’s most vocal defenders during his eight-game suspension last month for promoting an antisemitic film on social media.

“He’s a brother of mine,” Irving said. “I’m grateful to have a relationship off the court. True warriors when we go against each other. When I was in Boston, we didn’t really get a chance to get to know each other on a deeper level. So again, I’m just grateful that we’ve been able to build on top of a great foundation of relying on how we live our lives and how we treat people, so he’s a brother of mine.”

Brown stopped short of calling their relationship brotherly, Washburn adds, noting that they didn’t talk with each other before their teams met Sunday. Brown admitted they had problems when they were together, but said things are better now.

“Being a teammate of Kyrie, we got into it a lot,” he said. “We didn’t see eye to eye a majority of the time he was here. And since then it seems like our relationship (has improved). We’ve been able to have conversations. We’ve been able to talk to each other. We’ve been able to understand where he’s coming from.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brown has a shot to earn All-NBA honors this season, which would qualify him for a super-max extension, notes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Brown’s current contract runs through 2024, and that extension would pay him an estimated $290MM over five years based on current cap estimates, according to Forsberg. We took a closer look during the summer at Brown and other potential super-max candidates to watch in 2022/23.
  • A Nike spokesperson tells Shams Charania of The Athletic that the company has parted ways with Irving (Twitter link). Charania points out that Irving has one of the NBA’s most popular signature shoes.
  • Celtics forward Blake Griffin was surprised to receive a tribute video in his return to Brooklyn, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Griffin spent a year and a half with the Nets before signing with Boston during the preseason. “True professional. I think he’s added to their group, to their locker room,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Having guys like that (being) a part of your team that have been in playoff games and in meaningful games, there’s something to it. … That’s the kind of guy you want in your locker room.”
  • Nets forward T.J. Warren played 17:53 Sunday in his second game after returning from foot injuries that sidelined him for nearly two years, and Vaughn expects him to remain on that minutes limit for a while, Lewis adds. “I don’t have a lockstep number, but seems like that 17 around there felt pretty good for him,” Vaughn said. “Maybe we start inching that up a little bit, hopefully. We want him to feel good for a little bit of a stretch before we do.”

Celtics Notes: Griffin, J. Jackson, Hauser, Kabengele

Blake Griffin had to shake off some rust in his debut with the Celtics Friday night, but he showed several ways that he can help the team, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. After some early turnovers and missed shots, Griffin sparked a comeback that erased a 15-point deficit in a win over the Hornets. He finished with seven points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes and displayed an unselfishness that could make him an important part of Boston’s offense.

Griffin, 33, saw his role with the Nets diminish as last season wore on, and he spent nearly the entire offseason as a free agent before signing with the Celtics on Monday. He appeared to take a subtle swipe at his former team after the game while talking about coming to Boston, Robb adds.

“I think the intensity and maturity level of this group is off the charts,” Griffin said. “Every day when we get to work it’s intense. It’s not that we’re going forever but these guys are locked in and no one has to tell us to be locked in. It’s refreshing.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Justin Jackson‘s bid to earn a roster spot got off to a rocky start, but a second-half scoring explosion Friday improved his chances, Robb adds in a separate story. Jackson poured in 16 points in 23 minutes and hit four of eight shots from three-point range. Robb expects the Celtics to start the season with a full 15-man roster because of injuries to Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari, and he sees Jake Layman and Brodric Thomas as Jackson’s main competition for the final spot.
  • Sam Hauser has been a pleasant surprise since the start of training camp, Robb states in a mailbag column. The second-year forward has emerged as a reliable long-distance shooter who can contribute on defense as well. Robb believes Hauser might be able to provide what the Celtics were hoping for when they signed Gallinari.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele has been getting a lot of personalized instruction from Jaylen Brown since joining the Celtics on a two-way contract, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Kabengele played briefly for the Clippers and Cavaliers after being selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, and he’s determined to learn as much as possible to help him stay in the league. “I’m not the same person I was in my rookie year, or even last year when I was in the G League,” he said. “A lot of times, I would come into games and practices and think, ‘All right, I have a skill set.’ It was a little bit of arrogance I had. It wasn’t laziness, but I had a good sense of what I needed, then every time I fail and go through these things, I’m like, ‘Why are things not working?’ Then I did some self-reflection.”

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.