Celtics Rumors

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Rosas, Jokubaitis, Ainge

Nets team president Sean Marks has defended embattled Brooklyn guard Ben Simmons during an interview with Michael Grady of Yes Network (video link). Simmons missed the entire 2021/22 season due to mental health issues and a herniated disc in his lower back.

“It’s a little bit of a testament that 1) he tried to get back out there and tried to help his teammates and secondly, we have to be careful not judge people,” Marks said. “And if you’re outside that medical profession, when you’re chiming in from afar. You just have to be a bit careful of what you’re saying because you really don’t know.”

Simmons opted to treat the back injury with surgery after the Nets were officially eliminated in a 4-0 first-round sweep by the Celtics. “Nobody wants to have surgery,” Marks said. “It’s the last resort but it’s bygone now and we’ve got to move forward on this, we’ve got to support him and so forth.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Former Timberwolves team president Gersson Rosas has now been named a senior basketball advisor for the Knicks, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Rosas was let go from Minnesota under murky circumstances. Begley notes that determining where Rosas slots in among the Knicks pecking order will be important during a critical 2022 offseason for New York.
  • The Knicks are considering leaving 2021 draft-and-stash second-round pick Rokas Jokubaitis, currently playing for Barcelona in the EuroLeague Final Four, overseas to develop for another year, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman opines that New York could have more money to sign the point guard prospect in 2023, after several short-term Knicks contracts come off the books. Jokubaitis averaged 7.2 PPG and 2.8 APG across 17 MPG in 35 EuroLeague contests this season.
  • Former Celtics team president Danny Ainge, now in the Jazz front office, has enjoyed seeing the progress of the team, writes Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. The Celtics are now trailing the Heat 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. “I’ve been proud of this team all year,” Ainge said. “I really liked watching guys develop when I was there, and it’s been great watching guys like Jayson [Tatum] and Jaylen [Brown] and Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams] and all of them take another step this year. They just beat a great team, the defending champs.” Ainge drafted Tatum, Brown, Smart and Williams during his Celtics front office run.

Marcus Smart, Al Horford To Miss Game 1 Of Eastern Finals

Celtics starting point guard Marcus Smart and big man Al Horford will miss the first game of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Heat tonight, Boston has announced (via Twitter).

Smart, the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, had previously been considered questionable with a right mid-foot sprain. Reserve guard Derrick White could get the starting nod in Smart’s absence.

The absence of Horford is a surprise. The Celtics have revealed that the 35-year-old veteran, a former five-time All-Star, has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Horford was a crucial part of the Celtics’ interior attack against the Bucks during the Eastern Semifinals. Sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link) that the Celtics are anticipating they will be without Horford at least through Game 2 of the series on Thursday.

Starting center Robert Williams, who has not played since Game 3 of the Conference Semifinals for Boston with a knee injury, will be available to play. Reserve forward Grant Williams turned in a stellar Game 7 in the place of Robert Williams, and could get the starting nod as Horford’s replacement tonight. Wojnarowski tweets that Robert Williams underwent some encouraging team practices and will be able to log major minutes against the Heat.

Miami is not without its own injury issues heading into the series. The Heat will also be missing their starting point guard, former six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury. Guards Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin have all been listed as questionable ahead of tonight’s contest, as has starting power forward P.J. Tucker.

Draft Notes: Christie, Rhoden, Brooks, Lee, Johnson, Bieniemy, Combine

Michigan State freshman guard Max Christie will stay in the draft and hire an agent, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Christie is ranked No. 44 in ESPN’s Best Available list after averaging 9.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.5 APG in 35 games with the Spartans in 2021/22. He’s participating at the Chicago pre-draft combine this week.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Seton Hall wing Jared Rhoden, who impressed at the recent G League Elite Camp, has worked out for the Knicks, Nets and Celtics, Adam Zagoria tweets. The 6’6” Rhoden averaged 15.5 PPG and 6.7 RPG for the Pirates.
  • Kentucky’s Keion Brooks said he’s staying in the draft, Zagoria writes in a ZagsBlog.com post. The 6’7” Brooks averaged 10.8 PPG and 4.4 RPG this past season. “I’m all in on the draft,” he said.
  • Like Brooks, Davidson’s Hyunjung Lee says he’s not going back to college, Zagoria tweets. “I’m 100 percent in for the draft… This is my long-term dream.” Lee said. “If I play whether in the League or the G League, I feel I can improve faster.”
  • Cleveland State forward Deante Johnson is withdrawing from the draft and returning to college, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets.
  • UTEP swingman Jamal Bieniemy, who averaged 14.7 PPG last season, is staying in the draft, Rothstein tweets.
  • Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams, Toledo’s Ryan Rollins, North Carolina State’s Terquavion Smith and Colorado State’s David Roddy are among the players who stand the most to gain from the combine, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony write.

Kyle Lowry To Miss Game 1 Of Eastern Conference Finals

Heat point guard Kyle Lowry has officially been listed as out for Game 1 against the Celtics due to his lingering hamstring injury, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets.

The news comes as no surprise since Lowry didn’t practice on Monday. Hobbled by the injury, Lowry has appeared in only five postseason games. He last took the court in Game 4 of the semifinals against Philadelphia, when he scored just six points with seven assists and four turnovers in 30 minutes on May 8.

Caleb Martin (ankle sprain), Max Strus (hamstring strain), P.J. Tucker (calf strain) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring strain) are listed as questionable, Chiang adds in another tweet. Most Heat players who have been listed as questionable throughout the playoffs have ended up being active.

Strus has been one of the breakout performers in the postseason. He averaged 19.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG in Games 5 and 6 against Philadelphia. Tucker averaged 8.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 1.7 APG in 30.7 MPG during the Sixers series while providing his usual hard-nosed defense.

Celtics/Heat Injury Updates: Smart, Williams, Lowry

The Celtics are listing guard Marcus Smart as questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday due to a right mid-foot sprain he sustained in Game 7 of the Eastern Semifinals, the team announced today (via Twitter).

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Smart underwent an MRI on his injured foot and the imaging came back clean, which bodes well for the Celtics and the Defensive Player of the Year going forward. The hope, Wojnarowski says, is that Smart will be good to go for Game 1 vs. Miami, but the team will see how he feels on Tuesday before making a final decision.

In other Celtics injury news, Robert Williams will be available for the series vs. Miami with no minutes restrictions after missing the last four games of the Milwaukee series due to a bone bruise in his left knee (Twitter link).

Williams was technically active and available for Game 7 on Sunday, but head coach Ime Udoka said he didn’t want to adjust his rotation, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Heat point guard Kyle Lowry, who continues to battle a left hamstring injury, didn’t practice on Monday and appears unlikely to be available for Game 1, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

For what it’s worth, Jimmy Butler expressed confidence on Monday that Lowry is close to returning, telling reporters his teammate is in good spirits and remains engaged (Twitter link via Jackson).

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, Brown, Udoka, Tatum

Thrust into a starting role in Game 4 of the Celtics‘ series vs. Milwaukee after Robert Williams went down with another knee injury, Grant Williams scored just 11 total points on 3-of-15 shooting in his first three starts. However, the team’s faith in him was rewarded on Sunday when he remained in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game even with Robert Williams reactivated.

Grant Williams made the Bucks pay for focusing their defensive attention on other Celtics players, launching 18 attempts from beyond the arc and making seven of them. Those seven 3-pointers were a career high, as were his 27 points, while his 39:20 of game time was a personal playoff best. A plus-25 in the Celtics’ series-clinching victory, Williams said after the game that his teammates were encouraging him not to hesitate when he had open looks.

“(Jaylen Brown freaked out) on me for not shooting. ‘Shoot it, shoot the first one. We know that’s a shot you can make and we won’t get mad at you for shooting it,'” Williams told Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “So they were just like, ‘Shoot it, we’re sick of you passing it up.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ They gave me permission, so I tried letting them fly.”

Williams has been a rotation player in Boston all season long, but his emergence as a starter and a key cog who can play defense and hit open shots is coming at exactly the right time — the 23-year-old will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.

Here’s more on the Celtics, who are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six years:

  • Jaylen Brown earned another contract bonus on Sunday when the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals, pocketing an extra $321,429, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. According to Marks, that bonus would be voided if Boston makes the NBA Finals and would be replaced by a new bonus worth about three times as much ($964,286).
  • The Celtics, who were under .500 in January, have found their identity amid their run to the Eastern Finals, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who takes a closer look at the role each of the club’s primary rotation pieces has played in the second-half and postseason surge.
  • Ime Udoka finished outside of the top three in Coach of the Year voting, but the work the first-time head coach has done to lead the Celtics to the Eastern Finals can’t be overstated, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe details. For a first-year coach, it’s almost — I feel like it’s unheard of. His level of poise, his level of confidence never changed,” Brown said. “Even when we were down 2-1, or when we were down 3-2, you could tell, the look in his eyes that we were going to win this series. We just needed to handle our business and sometimes you can get in those moments and go away from everything, or start to make over-adjustments. And he didn’t.”
  • Jayson Tatum has “cracked the code for true NBA superstardom,” according to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, who examines how the fifth-year forward’s poise and play-making is making his teammates better.

Poll: Boston Celtics Vs. Miami Heat

The Celtics defeated the Bucks in their second-round series on Sunday, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six seasons. They’ll play the Heat, who’ve made the conference finals in six of their last 12 seasons.

Boston and Miami have recent postseason history. The teams have met twice in the playoffs over the last decade, both times in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Heat winning in 2012 and 2020. Both are regarded as strong defensive teams, and either franchise could easily win the championship this season.

Boston had home court advantage against the Bucks, but will start on the road against Miami. The Celtics made an NBA record 22 three-pointers in Game 7 on Sunday, receiving strong contributions from Grant Williams (27 points), Jayson Tatum (23 points) and Jaylen Brown (18 points).

Miami is coming off a series win against Philadelphia. The team caused issues for Trae Young in round one, then proceeded to hold the Sixers to an average of 96 points in the second round. The Heat have been led by Jimmy Butler on both ends — he’s averaging 28.7 points and 2.1 steals per game in the playoffs.

Both Boston and Miami are dealing with injuries to starting players. Celtics center Robert Williams III (left knee soreness) was active for Game 7, but he didn’t see any action. Heat guard Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, is still battling a hamstring injury.

The Celtics will likely continue deploying their switch-heavy defense, while the Heat may wait to see who Boston starts before finalizing matchups. The team could assign Butler and Tucker to Brown and Tatum, for example, but would have to live with Max Strus defending one of Boston’s big men. The Celtics could assign Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart to Butler.

Which team do you think will win this series? Will the Heat advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in the last three seasons, or will the Celtics return to the Finals and compete for an 18th title? Vote in our poll, then take to the comments section below to share your predictions!

Celtics’ Robert Williams Cleared For Game 7

Celtics center Robert Williams will be available for the deciding Game 7 in the team’s second-round series against the Bucks today, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Left knee soreness kept Williams sidelined for the past three games. He incurred a bone bruise after colliding with Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 3.

Grant Williams, who has replaced Robert Williams in the Boston starting lineup since Game 4, will continue to start at center for the Celtics, according to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com (via Twitter).

Boston head coach Ime Udoka indicates that Robert Williams’ knee has no current structural limitations, Bulpett adds. Further comments by Udoka seem to suggest that Williams may not see the floor much.

“We’re not relying on him to come in and save the day,” Udoka said of Williams, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Weiss notes that Udoka has suggested the Celtics will bring in the recuperated Williams if the game dictates a need for his services.

Along with 2022 Defensive Player of the Year award winner Marcus Smart, Williams proved to be one of the key anchors for one of the NBA’s top defenses during his best professional season to date. The 2021/22 campaign was Williams’s first year as a full-time starter. The 24-year-old out of Texas A&M averaged 10.0 PPG on 73.6% field goal shooting, plus 9.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG, across 61 contests, all starts.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Williams, Udoka, Game 7

Marcus Smart couldn’t sleep after the embarrassing end to the Celtics‘ Game 5 loss, but he redeemed himself as Boston won Game 6 in Milwaukee, writes Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald. With the Celtics trailing by a point in the closing seconds on Wednesday, Smart had his shot blocked by Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, who clinched the game seconds later by stealing the ball from Smart.

“That final minute, those final minutes, ate me alive,” Smart said. “My guys, teammates, coaches, were doing a good job of making sure that I stay as composed as I could and keep my mind right, cause I was really hurt after that. I felt like I let my team down. ‘Just be you.’ That’s just all they kept telling me. (Celtics assistant) Damon Stoudamire pulled me to the side and just told me — cause I dropped my head a couple times in those possessions — he was just, ‘I’ve never seen you do that and I just want you to not to lose confidence in yourself because we need you.’”

Instead of lying awake, Smart spent the night at the Celtics’ practice facility and regained his focus for Game 6. He scored 21 points, handed out seven assists and showed why he was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year by limiting Bucks’ shooters to 33% from the field when he was their primary defender.

“That was to be expected. We have all the confidence in the world in Smart,” Jayson Tatum said. “We knew that he was gonna come back and be the player that we needed him to be on the road in this Game 6, and he stepped up. He was big for us tonight, especially in the beginning, making the right plays.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Injured center Robert Williams has been upgraded to questionable for Game 7 on the Celtics’ injury report (Twitter link). Williams hasn’t played since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee in Game 3, and coach Ime Udoka said Williams’ pain tolerance will determine whether he’ll be active today, according to Trevor Hass of Boston.com. Udoka explained that the injury affects Williams’ mobility on certain movements, but he doesn’t believe it’s a long-term concern.
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green sent out a tweet Friday night stating that Udoka doesn’t receive enough credit for the job he’s done with the Celtics. “I just watched Bucks/Celtics highlights on (ESPN’s Sports Center),” Green wrote. “They showed something about Mike Buldenholzer and then some of the Celtics players talking about the game. But, did not show Ime Udoka at all. Did he make any adjustments from game 5 to 6? Does Ime do Interviews? Just wondering???”
  • The Celtics have lost twice at home to the Bucks already in this series, but they’re glad to have Game 7 in Boston, per David Brandt of The Associated Press. “It means everything,” Tatum said. “The best atmosphere in the NBA. Game 7s are the biggest and best games. Looking forward to it, truly. It’s basketball – biggest moments, biggest stage. What it boils down to is now go out there and just have fun.”

Tatum Backs Up His Max Extension

When the Celtics signed Jayson Tatum to a five-year max extension in November 2020, they were looking for him to deliver superstar performances in the postseason. He did just that in Game 6 against Milwaukee on Friday, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Tatum saved Boston’s season and forced a Game 7 with his 46-point outburst.

“It’s why he gets paid the big bucks. That’s it right there, for moments like that,” Celtics guardMarcus Smart said. “I was telling him the whole game, ‘Just be you, man,’ and he was. That’s what he gets paid to do. That’s what we lean on him to do.”